Governor Phil Murphy signed two bills on Tuesday that require all New Jersey police officers to wear body cameras and regulate when to turn them on.
The two proposals will enter into force in seven months, although they will depend in part on funding.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” Murphy said during a virtual bill signing ceremony.
The governor also issued Executive Order 201, which sets up a 14-member committee to advise officials on which body camera technology is best.
The value of body cameras is one area of agreement between law enforcement leaders and reformers, as videos can clearly clarify and also demonstrate misconduct. However, most state police still do not have them.
The laws will “go a long way” in “bridging the gap between trust and confidence in black and brown communities,” said Shirley Turner, state senator D-Mercer, who first introduced the proposal in 2014 after Michael Brown killed a Missouri Ferguson officer.
Body cameras can save taxpayers money in the long run, he said, by reducing the number of excessive violent lawsuits.
Murphy originally vetoed both bills, saying lawmakers need to budget more money and create more privacy protections for people captured on camera. A bill that set aside at least $ 58 million to cover equipment and storage costs was passed by two committees after receiving support from legislative leaders, but has not yet made full legislation.
Murphy’s first bill, signed on Tuesday (S1163), generally requires all police officers to wear a body camera, although officers working in secret, meeting with confidential informants, or working at a desk are exempt.
The second bill (A4312), which focuses on specific rules for the use of body cameras, was amended after Murphy’s veto.
By law, residents are generally required to be notified at the time of filming. They may ask the officer to turn off the camera in certain circumstances, such as in a medical emergency. Police officers can also turn off cameras in schools, hospitals and houses of worship.
All recordings must be kept for at least 180 days, but video recordings of police and arrests must be kept for at least three years. They cannot be viewed outside of the companies that store the recordings.
Murphy was joined online by state lawmakers, officials, and union leaders, several of whom referred to the “national census” that has been underway since George Floyd’s death, which seems to be how policing is.
“Body-worn cameras can increase a soldier’s professionalism, help reduce civilian complaints and violent issues, and (extremely) help soldiers write more accurate reports,” said Wayne Blanchard, head of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Organization.
The virtual format has created new twists and turns in the field of traditions. Board members applauded as Murphy signed each bill, but since most people were silent, they made a quiet montage of applauded hands. Murphy also announced who will eventually receive the pens used to sign the bills, but he says all of them need to be disinfected first.
Until recently, a body camera dispute in New Jersey escaped prisons. While officers in two state prisons are being provided with cameras, a lawmaker last week introduced a bill that would require them nationwide.
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Blake Nelson is available at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @BCunninghamN.
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