BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The township is taking another look at whether to purchase body cameras for Bernards Township police, although in the past the cost has been considered prohibitive, officials said last week.
Several residents had emailed officials asking about whether township police might be equipped with body cameras, Township Committeewoman Joan Harris said at the "virtual" Township Committee meeting on June 9.
"We do want to revisit this area," Harris said, adding that been looked at by the Township Committee a few years ago. "But in light of recent events, it's certainly worth looking at again." Harris said.
Bernards Police Chief Mike Shimsky later said in an email that the department currently is in contact with body worn camera (BWC) vendors to assess the feasibility of equipping township officers with the devices.
After obtaining information from the vendors, "We will present options and recommendations to the Township Committee," Shimsky said.
Both Township Committeeman Joseph Esposito, speaking at the meeting, and Shimsky in the email said that in the past the issue had been cost.
"Historically, it has been cost prohibitive to purchase in the past, as we relied mostly on the Mobile Video Recorders (MVR) [dashboard cameras] in the police vehicles to capture officer interaction," Shimsky said in the email. He said that federal grant opportunities are available from time to time, adding, "There are currently no grant opportunities that we are aware of."
In response to a question from TAP Into, Shimsky said township police cars have had the dashboard cameras for about 20 years. He said the dashboard cameras typically capture footage of most of the interactions between police and the public.
Online quotes for police body cameras fall roughly in the range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per officer. However, data storage costs are noted as a major contribution to cost on websites researching costs.
Harris also said that in speaking with Shimsky, she had been assured that local police are following both federal and Somerset County guidelines for excellence in policing.
The stated purpose of the report was "to instill trust between law enforcement and individuals, which is the key to the stability of our communities and the integrity of the criminal justice system," Shimsky said in the email. He said the report was issued in May 2015 by the United States President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
The report was created by a task force comprised of law enforcement professionals and stakeholders and outlined six “pillars” or main topic areas as well as overarching recommendations, Shimsky said. He said the pillars are: 1) Building trust and legitimacy; 2) Policy and oversight; 3) Technology and social media; 4) Community policing and crime reduction; 5) Officer training and education; and 6) Officer safety and wellness.
The report is published online.