Police & Fire

Elizabeth Among Eight Union County Police Department To Get Body Cameras

Scotch Plains Police Chief Mahoney, Officer Belford and Captain Conley attended the press conference. Belford is wearing a body camera. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Police Officer Adam Foti and Mountainside Police Chief Allan Attanasio. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

ELIZABETH, NJ - A countywide police body camera pilot program was announced by Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Patrol officers in eight communities in the county will receive a total of 550 body cameras, some by as soon as the end of this month, she told a packed house of television, print and online reporters.

Police chiefs and police directors, as well as officers from the eight towns, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Roselle Park, Fanwood, Garwood,  Elizabeth, Plainfield, and Linden, as well Freeholder Vernell Wright and other officials flanked Park as she made her announcement.

Sign Up for E-News

Park said when she was first took office, "I committed to making law enforcement partnerships with the community a huge priority."  Incidents recently across the country have shown how important these partnerships are in good and bad times and "This relationship is built only through a mutual trust. That trust is only developed through a sense of transparency and accountability," she said.

About $750,000 in forfeiture monies will be used to purchase the video body cameras and pay for one year's storage. The towns have agreed to pay for a minimum of two-years of additional storage, she said.

Equipment from various vendors was checked out and the county decided to purchase the equipment from Taser International, which has a state contract, so no bidding was required.

All the local police departments in the county were asked if they were interested in taking part in the program and, when only eight expressed an interest, they were all included.

One of those was Mountainside, which will equip "16 officers, the entire patrol division, and two lieutenants," said Mountainside Police Chief Allan Attanasio after the announcement. He said the department was especially interested in taking part in the body camera pilot program since Gov. Chris Christie required any police department which purchased a new vehicle starting March 1 to either also purchase a dashboard camera or body cameras. "We purchased a new vehicle , and this was a way to get the body cameras without any cost to the town or taxpayers," he said.

Park said the body cameras and storage will cost on average $1,350 per officer the first year. That breaks down to about about "$400 each" for the units and the rest for storage.  The next year, the cost drops to about $600 for storage per year, per officer.

The cameras are recording continuously, but unless the "On" button is pushed twice to activate the camera, only the 30 seconds of video taken before the button was pushed will be retained.  There is an "AG (Attorney General) directive on when they should be turned on," Park said.  Basically, the unit must be turned on during any on-duty encounter with a civilian, from a car stop, to vehicle searches, arrests or even verbal confrontations. Each officer will be trained on the proper protocol before being equipped with the camera.

In answer to a question on whether wearing cameras makes police officers feel like they are "under a microscope," Park said, "I think officers feel more protected with the video."

As Park and others spoke, most of the emphasis seemed to be on improving the relationships between police officers and residents and the cost-savings that will be incurred when departments are no longer investigating civilian complaints. "I don't think people realize the number of complaints municipalities face," she said. Investigating these complaints takes up hundreds of man hours, she said. The body cameras "have been proven to save money," she said, and complaints have dropped substantially.

She quoted statistics from four large police departments in three states (Alabama, Arizona, and California) that performed studies on this topic found that the introduction of body cameras was followed by reductions in citizen complaints of 40 to 90 percent, and reductions in police use-of-force incidents of 35 to 75 percent. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, in cooperation with the participating police departments, will be monitoring rates of such complaints and incidents as well throughout the course of the pilot program.

Park said. “These devices help achieve this by acting as an objective witness that produces valuable evidence during interactions between members of law enforcement and members of the public. This naturally generates accountability among both groups – for the officer and the citizen alike.”

Freeholder Wright thanked the county of "establishing Union County as a role model for New Jersey."

Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove, said, "If a picture is worth one thousand words, how much is it worth with audio?"

About 30 of more than 500 police departments in New Jersey are currently known to use body cameras, while nationwide it is estimated that approximately a quarter of the nation’s more than 15,000 departments use them.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events

Mon, June 4, 2:00 PM

Elizabeth Public Library, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Public Library Book Sale

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Tue, June 5, 2:00 PM

Elizabeth Public Library, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Public Library Book Sale

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Wed, June 6, 2:00 PM

Elizabeth Public Library, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Public Library Book Sale

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Goethals Bridge to New Jersey to be Closed Friday Night through Sunday

May 16, 2018

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Goethals Bridge to New Jersey will be closed to all traffic beginning 9 p.m. Friday, May 18 until 9 p.m. Sunday, May 20. 

The Eastbound to NY will remain open. Officials said the closure is necessary to construct the entry and exit ramps for the new westbound span.

At 9 p.m. Sunday night, the westbound span is expected to open in its final configuration, three ...

The 15th Annual Tour de Elizabeth Comes to Elizabeth this Sunday

ELIZABETH, NJ - Cyclists of every skill level are readying their bicycles in anticipation as the 15th annual Tour de Elizabeth that will roll through the city.\ this coming Sunday. 

This year’s ride, which is titled “Destination Elizabeth,” will begin and end at City Hall, is a family-friendly, 15-mile recreational tour of the City of Elizabeth’s historic ...

Suspect Charged in Fatal Hit-and-Run Flees Country

May 22, 2018

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A 36-year-old suspect charged in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian May 15th has fled the country, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Charges have been filed against Mario Infante, age 36, of New Street, Plainfield, following an investigation by detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office and North Plainfield ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.


Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

Trinitas Health Foundation Gala Approaches Records

May 25, 2018

Elizabeth, NJ– More than 450 guests attended the Trinitas Health Foundation’s annual Gala with the theme “Peace of Mind” on Thursday, May 10 at the Venetian in Garfield.  Funds exceeding $560,000 were raised, making it the second most successful gala in the history of Trinitas.

Guests participated in both a Silent Auction and Live Auctions, the ...