TRENTON – In an effort to increase transparency and officer accountability, the Senate advanced two bills today concerning the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
“In recent years, body cameras have become a valuable tool for transparency, exposing instances of police brutality and helping to hold officers accountable,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “They also protect officers against false accusations and reduce the legal costs associated with use-of-force lawsuits ultimately paid for by taxpayers.
“While we don’t know just how many departments in the state have body cameras, a survey done by NJ Advance Media found that four out of New Jersey’s ten most populated towns do not. This legislation will ensure that every police department in the state is outfitted with body cameras through criminal forfeiture money so it does not burden local budgets.”
The first bill, S-1163, sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner, would require every state, county and municipal law enforcement officer to wear a body camera while acting in performance of their official duties. The cameras would be funded by forfeiture funds received by the Attorney General as instrumentalities of crime.
“As we work to improve policing in New Jersey, setting clear guidelines for body camera usage is crucial for transparency, accountability, and public confidence; safeguarding both the citizens and law enforcement officers,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “These regulations will provide clear guidelines for how these body cameras are used allowing for consistency and reliability when footage is needed and pulled.”
The second bill, S-101, sponsored by Senator Nia Gill, would regulate the use of body cameras worn by law enforcement offices. Under the bill, the camera would have to be located where it maximizes the ability to capture video footage of the officer’s activities.
The bill would require the video and audio functions to be activated whenever the officer is responding to a call or at the initiation of any other encounter between an officer and a member of the public. The bill would prohibit an officer from using the body camera surreptitiously or to gather intelligence information.
The bill also sets parameters for how long footage would have to be retained, depending on what is captured in the footage.
The bills were released by votes of 33-2 and 39-0, respectively.