Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed legislation revamping the way law enforcement officers (LEOs) utilize body-worn cameras. The two pieces of legislation (S-1163 and A-4312) would require all uniformed LEOs in the state to wear a body-worn camera and would regulate their use.
Additionally, the Murphy signed Executive Order No. 201 to establish a 14-member Interagency Working Group to provide recommendations regarding body cameras. The group would issue reports to the Governor’s Office and Attorney General.
“We’ve made it clear that New Jersey will be second-to-none in enacting vital reforms to promote transparency and boost public confidence in law enforcement,” said Gov. Murphy in a press statement. “Body worn cameras are a wise all-around investment in public safety that not only redouble our commitment to transparency and accountability, but also ensure that members of law enforcement are equipped with an important tool to help them carry out their sworn duties.”
Regulating Body Cameras
State, county, and municipal patrol LEOs would be required to wear the body cameras, subject to funding appropriated by the New Jersey Legislature. Exceptions would be permitted for LEOs operating in undercover capacities or other lawful purposes.
Additionally, officers would be required to keep the camera activated when responding to an indicent. LEOs would be required to turn the camera on at the first reasonable opportunity to do so when in a dangerous situation.
Police groups, including the State Troopers Fraternal Association, New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association, and the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police offered their support for the measures.
“Today, as law enforcement, we must work with our community and policy leaders with reflection and deliberation on the topics of policing and social justice reform,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association (STFA).
“When we have conversations, we get results that equal progress. I thank the bill sponsors and Governor Murphy and his team for including the STFA in the important conversations with respect to legislation on (body-worn cameras),” stated Blanchard.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, like many others, noted the working group and legislation would work to help contend with the nationwide reckoning on racial justice.
Focus on Racial Justice
“Today, we not only take an important step towards the uniform, statewide use of body worn cameras, but also towards making New Jersey a national leader on yet another set of policing policies and best practices,” he said.
Quovella Spruill, Executive Vice President, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives NJ Chapter, echoed the sentiment.
“Law enforcement and the community agree on the transparency needed to aid in protecting everyone’s rights. As a mother of teenagers, woman of color, and law enforcement executive, I see how these tools can better serve in improving our relationships with our youth and citizens,” she said.
New York Study
A New York City report released this week found police body cameras can help reduce stops that have fueled accusations of racial bias and harassment against police officers in New York City.
Officers who wore the devices reported almost 40% more stops than officers who did not, the report found, suggesting that body cameras could compel officers to provide a more accurate accounting of their pedestrian stops under the department policy known as stop-and-frisk. A federal monitor who prepared the report attributed the increase in documented stops to officers being more inclined to record their actions on official paperwork knowing that they were recorded and could be reviewed.
The study found officers wearing body cameras drew 21% fewer complaints than officers who did not wear them, suggesting that both parties —officer and civilian—were mindful of their behavior when the devices were present.