Hudson County law enforcement ranks 17th out of 21 New Jersey counties for body camera usage, with just four local agencies utilizing the technology, according to a statewide survey conducted by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The state data shows that the Bayonne, Jersey City, and North Bergen Police Departments, along with county corrections officers, are the only four local law enforcement agencies with cameras out of 16.
Specifically, the BPD has 119 active cameras, compared to 276 in Jersey City, 11 in North Bergen, and 30 for county corrections officers as of yesterday, the AG’s office revealed.
Those figures don’t include cameras recently purchased by the Union City Police Department, who have since announced a pilot program, and 700 body cameras recently approved by the Jersey City Council since the survey did not consider cameras still in the process of being acquired and/or utilized.
However, the survey did include state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as college campus police, a school district police department, and bridge police – though does not include federal agencies.
The 239 agencies with body-worn cameras have a total of 12,195 cameras. The survey represents a snapshot of body-worn cameras owned as of yesterday and does not include cameras that are in the process of being acquired by law enforcement agencies.
“Body cameras not only enhance accountability in policing, they protect the vast majority of officers who do the right thing day-in and day-out, reducing unfounded complaints,
state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.
“As an objective witness to law enforcement actions, they bolster public confidence and can even help de-escalate volatile situations.”
Grewal also said that while he supports the use of body-worn cameras, but cannot mandate their statewide use unless the state legislature appropriates “sufficient, reliable funding to help local police departments purchase and maintain these systems.”
Shortly after taking being appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018, Grewal issued AG Directive 2018-1, which established a policy that body- and dash-camera videos of police deadly force incidents are subject to public release, following a formal request, once the initial investigation of the incident is substantially complete – usually within 20 days of the incident.
Grewal then built on that policy in December 2019, as part of his Excellence in Policing Initiative by issuing the Independent Prosecutor Directive, which lays out a comprehensive process for the independent investigation of police use-of-force and death-in-custody incidents.
New disclosure rules in that directive include mandating release of any third-party footage captured by surveillance cameras or a civilian’s smartphone and later obtained by law enforcement during the investigation.
Despite these changes, some activists still feel that body camera footage still isn’t accessible to the public quickly and easily enough.
One recent is the September 8th incident where a Jersey City police officer shot a suspect who allegedly “picked up and raised” a gun at him, according to preliminary findings by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Officials have cited the ongoing investigation as the reason why the police body camera footage has not been released yet.