One-and-a-half million dollars in criminal forfeiture funds are being used to equip New Jersey State troopers with body cameras, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said all members of the state police should have them by the middle of next year.
Grewal said 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 percent positive, so we invite the scrutiny. It is those out-of-context cellphone videos that sometimes paint a negative picture of an interaction,” said Grewal. “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 said most troopers welcome the use of body cameras, 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 smartphone,’ ” said Callahan. “So let’s show things from our perspective and capture the entire encounter.”
Callahan said 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,” said Callahan.
Grewal said internal affairs complaints have dropped in jurisdictions around the country that use body cameras.
Because of costs for equipment, video production, and storage, Grewal said, New Jersey does not mandate all police departments have body cameras, but about half of local departments do use them.