NJ expands police body camera requirement, beyond patrol officers
As the state’s requirement for all uniformed police to wear body cameras takes effect in June, the state has expanded which officers are included in that mandate.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal released an updated directive on Tuesday, which added to the list of law enforcement required to wear the recording devices:
- All uniformed patrol officers while acting in the performance of official duties
- All officers on tactical teams, including SWAT & SRT (Special Response Team)
- All officers assigned to "proactive enforcement teams"
- All officers assigned to canine units
- All officers whose assigned duties include regular interaction with members of the public
- All officers assigned to “front desk” duty in law enforcement agencies
- All officers assigned to a pre-planned search warrant execution or pre-planned arrest
- All uniformed officers assigned to work at demonstrations or potential civil disturbances
There still are exceptions, including undercover officers or those on administrative duty.
The expanded roster was based on recommendations by the Interagency Working Group on Body Worn Cameras, which issued its final report to the state in April.
The 14-member panel also focused on cost-saving efforts, as the price tag to fully equip a police department to use body-worn cameras goes beyond the cost of the devices itself, and includes storage, licensing, and maintenance fees.
The group recommended against a single statewide storage system for footage, saying that at this point, it would be too expensive and take too long to get it up and running.
Instead, law enforcement agencies can secure cloud-based storage, as opposed to on-premises storage options, as long as privacy and security safeguards are in-place.
Outside companies storing the footage have been barred from viewing it, under the body-cam law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in November.
That legislation requires all police on patrol to be wearing body cameras starting June 1 and all footage to be kept for at least 180 days.
Video of police force and arrests should be kept for at least three years, under the law.
The updated directive also expanded circumstances for the longer storage window — such as by request of either the officer or a private citizen in certain footage.
New Jersey has more than 35,000 local, county and state law enforcement officers, the governor said.
A survey released by Grewal’s office last fall showed more than half of those agencies did not have wearable cameras, and that 12,000 of the devices were being used statewide as of September.
The state has since been administering a $58 million grant program for police departments to purchase body worn cameras, earmarked under related legislation signed in January.
The body-worn camera mandate, with proper funding sources, has been backed by police union leaders in addition to community activists, as the recording of interactions is aimed at maintaining "transparency for both the public and our law enforcement members," New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan said in a written statement in November.
In that same November release, New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police President Bob Fox called body-worn cameras a definitive tool for ensuring “the safety of our brave men and women in law enforcement, as well as the people they serve.”