JC police unions highlight unintended consequences of body cameras, urge non-lethal weapons

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Leaders of Jersey City’s police unions said they would work with Mayor Steven Fulop on body cameras, but highlighted some of the unintended consequences and details that should be discussed before implementation.

With protests across the nation in the wake of grand jury decisions not to indict police officers – for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY – policy makers around the country, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, have outlined plans for police officers to be equipped with body cameras while on duty.

Lt. Robert Kearns, President of the Jersey City Superior Officers Association, and Police Officer Carmine Disbrow, President of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, said they would work with Fulop on body cameras, but highlighted some of the unintended consequences and details that need to be evaluated first.

Disbrow wondered whether officer’s conversations with criminal informants, often called “snitches” in the street, would have to be recorded, while Kearns wondered if ordinary citizens would feel comfortable reporting information to police officers if they felt they were being recorded.

In addition, I asked whether body cameras would help bridge the distrust between police and community, especially in instances where there is no recording of events, like the case of Lavon King’s death in Jersey City.

When asked, Disbrow said pepper spray and stun guns were non-lethal weapons that police officers should be equipped with.

Finally, Kearns stressed that the police unions were open to body cameras for officers, but that beginning with a pilot program was the best route to go.

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