CLARK, NJ – Just months after implementing vehicle dashboard cameras, the Clark Police Department has begun its rollout of officer-worn body cameras. The department is piloting the program with two cameras and expects to have 20 operational within the next two weeks.
“All uniformed officers will have them,” Clark Chief of Police Pedro Matos said. “So far everything has gone as planned. We’ve been rolling them out with limited use so we can find any problems. We need to make sure the way we anticipate using them is the way they’re being used.”
The camera is the size of a credit card, although slightly thicker, Matos said. It is issued at the beginning of an officer’s shift and worn clipped to his shirt. While the officer triggers the device’s recording mechanism, Matos said protocols have been established that dictate when it is to be turned on.
“Through our policy we have specific incidents that must be recorded,” Matos said. “There are situations that must be recorded, so the officer does not have the autonomy to say ‘Well, I’m going to record that one, I’m not going to record that one.’ Our policy dictates when he has to turn on the camera.”
Matos said an officer does have some discretion to turn it off in certain settings, such as a home or hospital, when the officer does not anticipate violence or the use of force. An officer is not required to notify a person that a camera is in use, Matos said.
Captured video is automatically uploaded to departmental storage servers when the cameras are returned to their docking stations at the end of a shift. The officer tags the type of incident in each video.
“Depending on what kind of video it is, or what the incident is, we have a retention period. For instance, a miscellaneous incident that has no evidence value is deleted after 90 days,” Matos explained. “All body cam videos that will document an arrest or any kind of criminal act, we then have to burn it for the file. We’ll create a hard copy.”
The officers who have been piloting the cameras have provided positive feedback, Matos said. They anticipate it will be useful in supporting documentation of their observations, such as in the case of visible drugs.
“They like it,” Matos said. “They like the fact that now when someone comes back and says ‘this didn’t happen, the officer did this,’ they can show right on the video what occurred.”