One-and-a-half million dollars in criminal forfeiture funds are being used to equip New Jersey State Police with body cameras, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal all road troopers should have them by the middle of next year.
Grewal says when law enforcement officers and citizens know their encounters are being recorded, they behave better. He says there are thousands, maybe even millions, of those interactions in the state each year.
“And they are 99.9% positive. So we invite the scrutiny. It is those out of context cellphone videos that sometimes paint a negative picture of an interaction. So we would welcome an entire picture of the interaction, and entire video of the interaction to be available, and I think it promotes confidence and public trust.”
State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan says most troopers welcome the use of body cams, and they’re already used to having cameras mounted in their cruisers.
“I tell the troopers when I’m with them, you’re on camera anyway whether it’s a store camera or somebody holding a smart phone. So, let’s show things for our perspective and capture the entire encounter.”
Callahan says while body cameras are a good tool, a police officer’s training on how to treat the public is what can really make a difference.
“If the person wearing the camera doesn’t have that notion of treating people with dignity and respect, all we’re going to end up with is a bunch of negative videos, and that’s not going to help us in building that public trust.”
Grewal says internal affairs complaints have dropped in jurisdictions around the country that use bodycams.
Because of costs of the equipment, video production, and storage, he says the state does not mandate all police departments have body cameras, but about half of local departments do use them.