What New Jersey’s Body Camera Policy Means for Police Officers, Community Members

By: Helena Perray, Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern

CAMDEN, N.J. – Earlier this week, Governor Phil Murphy announced the official implementation of a statewide body camera mandate for all uniformed patrol officers in New Jersey.

Effective June 1, the law will serve as one of many steps toward rebuilding trust and safety between law enforcement and the community, according to Gov. Murphy.

“All of us are united in one vision,” Gov. Murphy said Tuesday. “And that is in ensuring that not just the city of Camden, but this county – but our entire state – continues to be a safe place for families to call home. And so much of that vision rests on ensuring strong bonds of trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.”

According to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, 487 police agencies that applied to the Attorney General’s office will be supplied with grant-funded body-worn cameras. More than 28,000 cameras will be supplied to law enforcement agencies, totaling approximately $58 million in grant funds.

The cost of this equipment will serve as an “investment in public safety, in smart policy, and in building community trust,” Attorney General Grewal said. “Although that’s a substantial cost, the impact will be substantial as well.”

According to a press release, all uniformed patrol officers will be required to wear body cameras when on duty, as well as officers “assigned to tactical teams, proactive enforcement teams, canine units, or duties involving regular interaction with the public.” Some officers, such as those working undercover, won’t be required to wear body cameras.

Body cameras are one way in which the state will provide protection to both, its officers and its community. According to Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, this equipment will provide documentation of officer conduct that will hold law enforcement accountable for their interactions and practices while on duty.

The cameras will also serve as training tools for new officers.

“When we look at this footage, the training officers and the police academies can now – in real time – train the new recruits in how they can do effective interventions without the use of excessive force,” Lt. Governor Oliver said.

The implementation of body-worn cameras use will strive to improve officer behavior while also creating a sense of transparency and accountability with the public. According to Attorney General Grewal, use of these cameras will also come with specific protocol.

“We are harnessing modern technology to improve outcomes in a structured way,” he said. “…I instructed officers that they should deactivate cameras at the request of a crime victim, and I have prohibited recording for any purpose that would interfere with speech, association, or religious activity protected by the first amendment.”

According to Gov. Murphy, this law will ensure that officers statewide follow all requirements regarding body-cam usage, creating a work, school, and community environment where New Jersey residents can once again feel safe and protected.

“Body cameras are a wise all-around investment in both, public safety and in justice,” Gov. Murphy said. “…Today is an opportunity for us to further cement New Jersey’s role as a national leader in smart police reforms that seek to bridge divides and not exacerbate them.”

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.