VERONA/CEDAR GROVE,NJ - Cedar Grove and Verona have each been awarded $15,000 to purchase police body cameras. The money comes from $566,000 in federal grants that were awarded by the state Attorney Generals office on Wednesday. The money is being split by 37 New Jersey municipalities.
The Cedar Grove Police Department currently has video cameras in each patrol vehicle, which record audio and video within the proximity of the car. Lt. Joseph Cirasa said a body worn camera (BWC) will complement the department capabilities, noting BWCs can objectively record the circumstances of police-civilian encounters.
'The BWCs are used to documents sights and sounds during the course of police investigations. They record the physical appearance of suspects and crime victims, preserving evidence such as injuries," according to Cedar Grove police. "The audio will document witness and suspect statements. Preserving and memorializing officer conduct also plays an important role in addressing the public’s concerns."
Verona police chief Mitchell Stern that as this will be Verona's first purchase of body worn camera equipment they are researching it carefully.
"We are exploring our options and need to work through some administrative and technical hurdles before implementing the body worn cameras," Stern said. "We are hoping to move forward with the program later in the year."
This round of grants is being provided using funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“JAG”) Program. JAG funds are appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Justice to assist states and local units of government in carrying out programs to prevent and control crime and to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system. In July 2015, Governor Christie and the Attorney General’s Office announced a total of $4 million in funding for body cameras using criminal forfeiture funds. They announced $1.5 million in funding to fully equip the New Jersey State Police with body cameras for every officer conducting patrol duties. They also announced $2.5 million in grant funding that was awarded to 176 police departments for the purchase of more than 5,000 cameras.
“We’ve made positive police-community relations a top priority in New Jersey through policies and programs that have been embraced by law enforcement and community stakeholders alike, including our efforts to promote the use of body cameras by police,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This new round of funding for body cameras will keep New Jersey in the vanguard nationally in using this technology, which promotes transparency in policing while protecting officers in their difficult and dangerous jobs.”
“We’re rapidly reaching the tipping point where a majority of the police departments in New Jersey will have body cameras, and the remaining departments are likely to follow suit,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Police departments recognize that these devices are powerful tools for promoting mutual accountability and trust between police and the communities they serve.”
The decision regarding whether to acquire body-worn cameras remains up to individual police departments and municipalities. However, the strong support of the Attorney General’s Office for use of body cameras – which also led the office to issue a statewide policy in 2015 establishing guidelines for deploying the cameras – has put New Jersey at the forefront in the United States in embracing this technology. Prior to the Attorney General’s funding and policy, 50 police agencies in New Jersey had body cameras. With the help of the two rounds of funding from the Attorney General’s Office, the number of police departments in New Jersey that have body cameras or are in the process of acquiring them has reached more than 240, nearly half of the roughly 500 law enforcement agencies in the state.
The statewide policy for body cameras issued by the Attorney General’s Office in 2015 was designed to promote best practices and uniformity in using the devices. The policy – which guides police departments statewide that decide to deploy body cameras – establishes foundational requirements while allowing individual police departments to tailor policies to local needs.