Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman on Monday morning will officially announce an estimated $2.5 million in funding to equip local police with body cameras using money seized in criminal cases.
The move "will put New Jersey in the forefront in the U.S. in embracing this technology to promote transparency, mutual accountability, and trust between police and the community," Hoffman said Sunday.
Hoffman promised the funding to local police after State Police troopers began getting the cameras in late summer.
While the aid will encourage statewide use of body cameras, the attorney general said, the decision to buy them is left to each department.
He expects many will do so, however, because of a state law requiring newly-puchased police cruisers to have mobile recording systems. Body cams satisfy that requirement, Hoffman said. They cost about $500 each.
Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties will be capped at $150,000 each. Other counties will be capped at $75,000 to $125,000
“In addition to helping police gather evidence, body cameras will act as an objective witness in police-involved shootings and other use of force incidents," Hoffman said, "so that truth rules the day and not emotions, agendas or personal bias."
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Body Camera Police Fact Sheet: http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases15/Body-Camera-Policy_Fact-Sheet.pdf
Directive on Body Cameras: http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases15/AG-Directive_Body-Cams.pdf
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Hoffman said he consulted with law enforcement "stakeholders" -- including county prosecutors, their detective chiefs, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, New Jersey Asian-American Law Enforcement Officers Association and Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
His staff also met with advocates, community leaders and clergy.
Elmwood Park police, who in May became one of the first departments in the state to add body cameras, were part of that group.
"We discussed what works, what doesn't work, and more," Police Chief Michael Foligno told Daily Voice.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino in May announced the purchase of 47 body cameras for all of his office's on-the-road officers with forfeiture funds and federal grant money.
"It is the 21st century, and we can’t sit by and only be reactive," Saudino said.
Investigators say body cameras provide evidence that can only help make police work easier in a society where citizens are quick to pull out cellphones and record portions of encounters — sometimes from obstructed vantage points.
Civil libertarians, meanwhile, say they will help keep officers in check.
"We have been videotaping our motor vehicle stops for more than 15 years through the use of in-car dashboard cameras," NJSP Supt. Col. Rick Fuentes said. "Those recordings have immeasurably improved our ability to supervise and have been widely used during post-stop investigations."
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