By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — All law enforcement officers in New Jersey will be required to wear body cameras going forward, per new legislation signed by Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday.
The governor signed two pieces of legislation and an executive order — all concerning police’s new mandate to wear body cameras — on Tuesday. One piece of legislation was for the body camera mandate, and the other was signed to regulate how police use their body cameras.
The mandate for all police officers to wear body cameras is subject to funding appropriated by New Jersey’s state legislature.
“We’ve made it clear that New Jersey will be second-to-none in enacting vital reforms to promote transparency and boost public confidence in law enforcement,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “Body-worn cameras are a wise all-around investment in public safety that not only redouble our commitment to transparency and accountability, but also ensure that members of law enforcement are equipped with an important tool to help them carry out their sworn duties. Today represents another step down what we know is a long road to full understanding and lasting trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Gov. Murphy’s executive order created a 14-team Interagency Working Group that will make recommendations to the governor and attorney general’s offices regarding the use of body cameras. Undercover officers, officers meeting with confidential informants, and officers performing administrative and/or non-uniformed duties are excluded from the new mandate.
Policing in the United States came under intense scrutiny in the wake of a pair of officer-related acts of violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Kenosha, Wisconsin. George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for an alleged time of more than eight minutes on May 25, and Jacob Blake was shot and severely injured by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Blake in the back seven times. Floyd was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill by a store clerk, and Blake was reaching into the driver’s seat of his car while his three sons sat in the back seat during each incident.
The shooting death of Breonna Taylor, which took place in March 2020, also came into the public eye over the summer. Three plainclothes officers — Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove — shot 32 bullets into Taylor’s boyfriend’s apartment after he fired a warning shot that hit Mattingly’s leg. Six of those bullets hit Taylor and killed her, but the three officers were charged with wanton endangerment.
Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for his role in Floyd’s death. Sheskey has not been charged with a crime.
The three officers involved in Taylor’s death were charged with wanton endangerment. The Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront of nationwide protests since the two incidents. In June, community members in Millville held a rally in support of the Floyd family’s fight for justice.
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