Trenton – A Senate committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Joe Cryan, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Shirley Turner that would provide state funding to outfit police officers in New Jersey with body cameras.
The bill, S-3089, would provide a supplemental appropriation of $59 million to the Department of Law and Public Safety for the purchase of body-worn cameras and related services by state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies.
“Body cameras can help increase public trust by providing recorded evidence of interactions with law enforcement that can help resolve any disputes,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union), who served as Union County Sheriff. “As a former sheriff, I can tell you I referred to body cameras for footage that cleared officers. They are a verifiable way to prove that most law enforcement officers do their job and do it well.”
The bill, approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, will provide the financing for local law enforcement agencies that don’t have the resources to outfit their officers with this equipment at a time when they are confronting the demands of the continuing public health emergency, Senator Sweeney noted.
“The statewide use of bodycams will be a significant step in achieving reforms that improve the criminal justice system and make real progress in social justice,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The public and the police are protected by having body cameras. They help safeguard the officers and the citizens they interact with by producing an accurate record of their interactions. A picture is worth a thousand words.”
“In recent years, body cameras have become a valuable tool for transparency, exposing instances of police misconduct and helping to hold officers accountable,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “They also protect officers against false accusations and reduce the legal costs associated with use-of-force lawsuits, which are ultimately paid for by taxpayers. Body cameras will help to create safer communities and both officers and civilians will benefit greatly from rebuilding trust between police officers and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect.”
Under the bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to store the data from the cameras using a tamper-proof evidence management system that has the ability to securely share data while maintaining an audit trail and chain of custody.
The funding addresses Governor Murphy’s conditional veto of legislation (S-1163/A-4271) requiring uniformed state, county and municipal law enforcement officers to wear a body camera while acting in performance of their official duties.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 6-0.