Law requiring cameras in N.J. cop cars ruled unconstitutional over funding lack

A screen grab from an officer's dashboard camera taken Dec. 30

A screen grab from an officer's dashboard camera taken Dec. 30

A law requiring cameras in municipal police vehicles used for traffic stops violates New Jersey  Constitution’s state-mandate, state-pay amendment, the Council on Local Mandates has ruled.

The 2014 law, that had been challenged by Deptford Township officials, was struck down by the state panel Wednesday because it didn’t include enough money for towns to implement the requirement.

Deptford Mayor Paul Medany said his town didn’t budget money for the cameras, and the funding from a $25 surcharge on drunken driving convictions wasn’t enough.

“It would have cost us approximately $80,000 to fully comply with the law,” he said Wednesday. “It would have cost us about 17 to 18 years to pay back if you figure the cost of the cameras, the amount on the average of the tickets that we give out in Deptford Township.”

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, who said the law sought to ensure the public is treated fairly during interactions with police, said lawmakers might try to find another funding mechanism.

“We just have to find another way to get that going,” said Johnson, D-Bergen. “Because with … all the technology out there, it would be shame not to use it to protect the lives of law enforcement and also to ensure the public feels that they’re being treated properly.”

Even if more funding were found, Medany said he still has concerns about paying for storing the data that’s recorded and handling Open Records Act requests for video that might be subject to privacy laws.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said Wednesday the Council on Local Mandates does not have the authority to declare what constitutes adequate funding for a statute. He said he will call on the state attorney general to take action to get the council’s ruling overturned.

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