The department anticipates equipping all of its officers with body-worn cameras in 2019.
WESTFIELD, NJ – Local police are testing three body-worn cameras and anticipate equipping all of the department’s officers with cameras early next year, the police chief said.
The department began a three-month test-run of the cameras on three officers during the day shift and three officers during the night shift last week, Chief Christopher Battiloro said.
The department is testing the cameras through a field-testing agreement with the vendor, Axon, something Battiloro said he secured immediately after his appointment to the role of then acting chief Aug. 1.
“The Westfield Police Department is seeking to equip all of its uniformed officers and supervisors with body-worn cameras in the very near future,” Battiloro said in an announcement. “I believe they are essential to accountability and transparency.”
Westfield’s department is among dozens across New Jersey placing body-worn cameras on some or all of its officers, including those in Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Roselle Park, Fanwood, Garwood, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Linden, which received cameras through a county grant program using forfeiture funds in 2015.
The cameras anticipated for Westfield will also receive a boost from criminal forfeiture funds, Battiloro said.
“They will be paid for in large part with asset forfeiture funds – or monies seized as a result of criminal activities,” Battiloro said. “Our IT staff was recently trained in their use by the vendor and, in turn, has been training our officers.”
The announcement of the cameras’ testing in Westfield follow a recent NJ Advance Media project detailing the use of force in departments statewide from 2012-2016, including in Westfield.
Data for Westfield included in the report shows officers recorded using force at a rate lower than 328 other New Jersey police departments statewide in the five-year span.
The figures show that for every 1,000 arrests Westfield police made in those years, there were 17.5 incidents in which officers used force. The department reviewed each instance in which force was used, Battiloro told TAPinto.net.
“Our review process did not disclose any instances in which the use of force was not justified given the circumstances or any instances in which the force used was deemed to be excessive or otherwise inappropriate,” Battiloro said.
The cameras are essential to transparency and accountability, he said.
“I am certain body-worn cameras will simply reaffirm that our officers are conducting themselves in a positive, professional manner,” Battiloro said.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh