PATERSON, NJ - Chief Troy Oswald’s career with the Paterson Police Department may be drawing to a close but his impact will continue to be felt, and seen, well into the future. On Tuesday, the Paterson City Council voted unanimously to approve a five-year, $581,000 contract that will bring body-worn cameras to the city’s patrol officers and supervisors, an innovation has long pursued.
On Monday, just as he was helping to swear in 10 new recruits to the force he has served on for 26 years, news broke that the New Jersey Police and Firemen's Retirement System Board of Trustees approved Oswald’s retirement under the terms of a lawsuit settlement accepted by local lawmakers in November.
While supportive of Oswald, the settlement was criticized by First Ward Councilman Mike Jackson who referred to it as "the worst decision being made." It was, he suggested, "childish behavior" that led to the rift between Oswald and the Sayegh Administration. "Personal vendettas are being resolved through litigation," he added later.
Prior to the vote Oswald praised the council members for their support of the Paterson Police Department referring to them as “nine people that really do care.” The respected law enforcement leader would go on to promise to serve dutifully until his official retirement date of February 1, a commitment none of those he was addressing seemed surprised to hear.
Council President Maritza Davila referred to Oswald as “one of the best chiefs Paterson has ever had,” while Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton praised him for teaching people in the community “how to look out for each other.”
“I truly appreciated that,” Cotton said. “You have always been a community person.”
Leaving no doubt about the shadow Oswald will cast on his successor, tipped by several sources to by current Deputy Chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora, Councilman-at-Large Flavio Rivera speculated that “if the next chief is half as hands on as you are,” Paterson would be placed a better place.
Following the brief exchange between Oswald and the members of the council each cast their votes for the purchase of the body cameras as outlined at a previous workshop meeting.
At the time Oswald said that the utilization of the “tamper proof” devices that clip on to officer’s outer garments has been in the pipeline for some time, and would have eventually become required by the FBI in the wake of their investigation that has netted eight allegedly corrupt local cops.
“We have been waiting and researching, and now have gotten a really good price,” Oswald said, adding that technology, especially related to the storage of recorded data, has advanced.
Following guidelines established by the New Jersey Attorney General, the cameras worn by Paterson’s police will be running on a constant loop, recording 30 seconds at a time. When responding to a call, except in nine very specific incidents inlcuding those involving children, or in houses of worship, officers will press a button twice to keep the recording going, later turning it offer by holding the button for five seconds. Oswald clarified that the manner in which recording an incident is halted in a preventative measure to ensure footage isn’t accidentally lost during a “dynamic situation.”
At the end of each officer’s tour the cameras will be placed into a docking station where they will recharge and footage will be downloaded securely. Members of the public will be able to request footage via the filing of OPRA forms, with materials being provided through email.
“These won’t prevent all bad actions,” by police officers Oswald warned. “But it will make it harder for them to happen through transparency.”
In response to a question from Sixth Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz about the number of officers that will be outfitted with cameras Oswald acknowledged that getting one for each officer in the future is “something you’re going to want to do.”
The devices, purchased from Axon Enterprise, an Arizona based company, are expected to begin being used in mid-March.
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