PISCATAWAY, NJ – Members of law enforcement agencies gathered with religious and community leaders at the Rutgers University Visitor Center on Monday where Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced $2.5 million in awards to help equip 176 police departments across New Jersey with body-worn cameras for their officers.

Under the program more than 5,000 body cameras will be purchased using criminal forfeiture funds, giving New Jersey the national lead in embracing this technology and serving as a model for police agencies across the country to follow.

The goals for the body camera program will help more New Jersey police departments promote transparency and mutual accountability, and strengthen trust between the agencies and the community.

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In Middlesex County, police departments in Carteret, Edison, Highland Park, Plainsboro, South River, and the Rutgers University Police Department are participating in the attorney general’s initiative.

Hoffman first announced availability of the awards last July and invited police agencies to apply for the funds through county prosecutors. Since that time a limited number of body cameras have been used by about 50 police departments, a number of which have doing so as part of a pilot program.

“The funding will enable about 30 of those existing departments to acquire significant amounts of additional body cameras,” said Hoffman. “It will also enable another 145 police departments that currently have no cameras at all to equip their officers.”

Thirteen other police departments are using alternate sources of funding to purchase body cameras, bringing the state’s total to 208 agencies to be equipped.

Hoffman also said his office was able to meet almost every request by the participating agencies, offering $500 towards the cost of each camera package requested. “The overwhelming response we received from law enforcement to our offer of funding demonstrates that police officers are embracing this technology to protect themselves, assist them in their work, and foster stronger police-community relations,” he said.

The acting attorney general also said new statewide policies have been put in place on best practices for using body worn cameras. His office held numerous meetings with law enforcement leaders, civil rights organizations, and community advocates, establishing foundational requirements for police agencies to follow and allowing room to meet individual community needs.

“Public confidence in our police officers is inexplicably vital,” said Hoffman. “Police and community leaders have, without question, found common ground and maintain that body cameras are a win-win for this state, making New Jersey a national leader.”