While Crime Rises, Bayonne and Kearny to Purchase over 100 Body Cameras

TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino today announced $566,000 in awards for 37 law enforcement agencies across New Jersey to buy body-worn cameras. Since 2015, the Attorney General’s Office has provided more than $4.5 million, including the new round of funds, to enable the New Jersey State Police and other police departments across New Jersey to buy their officers body cameras to promote transparency, mutual accountability, and trust between police and the community.

Attorney General Porrino announced the availability of grant funds on Sept. 20 and invited applications from agencies that had not received funds in the prior round of funding in 2015. Today, he announced the specific awards by agency. Thirty-seven agencies that applied received funds, and most received funding for all of the body cameras they requested. The $566,000 will help to fund purchases of 1,132 body cameras. Agencies can use up to $500 in grant funds for each camera or camera package, including camera and related equipment. Police departments in 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties received awards.

This round of grants is being provided using funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“JAG”) Program. JAG funds are appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Justice to assist states and local units of government in carrying out programs to prevent and control crime and to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system. In July 2015, Governor Christie and the Attorney General’s Office announced a total of $4 million in funding for body cameras using criminal forfeiture funds. They announced $1.5 million in funding to fully equip the New Jersey State Police with body cameras for every officer conducting patrol duties. They also announced $2.5 million in grant funding that was awarded to 176 police departments for the purchase of more than 5,000 cameras.

“We’ve made positive police-community relations a top priority in New Jersey through policies and programs that have been embraced by law enforcement and community stakeholders alike, including our efforts to promote the use of body cameras by police,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This new round of funding for body cameras will keep New Jersey in the vanguard nationally in using this technology, which promotes transparency in policing while protecting officers in their difficult and dangerous jobs.”

“We’re rapidly reaching the tipping point where a majority of the police departments in New Jersey will have body cameras, and the remaining departments are likely to follow suit,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Police departments recognize that these devices are powerful tools for promoting mutual accountability and trust between police and the communities they serve.”

The decision regarding whether to acquire body-worn cameras remains up to individual police departments and municipalities. However, the strong support of the Attorney General’s Office for use of body cameras – which also led the office to issue a statewide policy in 2015 establishing guidelines for deploying the cameras – has put New Jersey at the forefront in the United States in embracing this technology. Prior to the Attorney General’s funding and policy, 50 police agencies in New Jersey had body cameras. With the help of the two rounds of funding from the Attorney General’s Office, the number of police departments in New Jersey that have body cameras or are in the process of acquiring them has reached more than 240, nearly half of the roughly 500 law enforcement agencies in the state.

The statewide policy for body cameras issued by the Attorney General’s Office in 2015 was designed to promote best practices and uniformity in using the devices. The policy – which guides police departments statewide that decide to deploy body cameras – establishes foundational requirements while allowing individual police departments to tailor policies to local needs.

The Attorney General’s Directive on Body Cameras is posted at this link:
www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/2015-1_BWC.pdf

Over the past two years, the Attorney General’s Office has held meetings with law enforcement leaders, civil rights organizations and community advocates in New Jersey to discuss ways to strengthen police-community relations and enhance public trust and confidence with respect to police use of force. Those meetings have been instrumental in the development of the Attorney General’s initiatives to expand and guide the use of body-worn cameras by police in New Jersey. That outreach also informed a directive issued by the Attorney General’s Office in July 2015 that strengthened New Jersey’s already widely respected procedures for independent and impartial investigations of all police-involved shootings and deadly force incidents in New Jersey.

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