Bridgeton Mayor Voices Support for Body-Worn Cameras, but Questions Use of Footage Policies in Place

By: Reney Waters, Follow South Jersey Bridgeton City Intern

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

BRIDGETON, N.J. — In his most recent column, Bridgeton Mayor Albert B. Kelly shared his support for police officers wearing body-worn cameras.

In his opinion, Mayor Kelly believes that police officers being required to wear body cameras at all times is similar to incidents when officers advise suspects that anything they say may be used against them in a court of law. Footage from an officer’s point of view should be

The Mayor also noted that his city was already ahead of the game when the state mandated officers wearing body camera. The city equipped police cars with video cameras “as far back as 2009,” and Bridgeton began putting cameras on officers’ bodies in 2016, according to his column.

“This effort to be proactive was initiated by our current chief [Michael A. Gaimari],” Mayor Kelly wrote. “When the mandate requiring that all patrol officers utilize body-worn cameras took effect June 1, we were already there.”

In his column, Kelly argues that body-worn cameras create a visible record of what occurred during an incident, which is the main purpose of a police report. With this in mind, why are officers prohibited by the state from checking their cameras as a source of information as part of investigations?

“This has the feel of a ‘gotcha’ moment,” Mayor Kelly said. “I say this because we all know how unreliable eyewitness memories and testimony can be, and this includes when police officers are the eyewitnesses. Line up 10 people who observed a single event or incident, and you’ll likely get 10 vastly different accounts of what happened, who was present, what they looked like, and what they said. And that could occur even in calm moments.”

Mayor Kelly said that he’s spoken to officers who point to the Fairfield Township mass shooting as an example of a case when body cameras would be helpful. He wouldn’t want officers to have to guess what happened during particular incidents. Three people were killed and 11 others were injured at the May 22 birthday party at a home on the 1000 block of E. Commerce St. Authorities have made three arrests in the case, but none of the three individuals brought into police custody are believed to be the perpetrator of the deadly shooting.

“I would think we would want as much accuracy as possible as quickly as possible,” Mayor Kelly wrote. “And if viewing the video from body-worn cameras will allow officers to be more certain of the details, and, therefore, more effective at their jobs, then this makes all the sense in the world to me.”

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.