New Jersey Senate panel backs police-cam push

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A New Jersey bill calls for equipping all police cars in the state with dashboard cameras.

Currently, all New Jersey State Police vehicles come equipped with dash cams. However, municipal police vehicles do not.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted to advance a bill that would require all new or used municipal police vehicles that are primarily used for traffic stops to be equipped with cameras.

The requirement was approved by state lawmakers a year ago but Gov. Chris Christie failed to act on the bill, effectively killing it via a pocket veto.

In an effort to gain the governor’s endorsement, this year’s version includes a provision to include body cameras. The alternative to equipping police cars is estimated to cost only a few hundred dollars compared with a few thousand dollars for dash cams.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester/Camden, has led the charge on the effort. He has raised the question with lawmakers as to why all police cars aren’t already outfitted with video cameras.

“In this day and age we have little corner grocery stores with video cameras. There’s video everywhere solving crimes and providing good evidence,” Moriarty said during an Assembly hearing on the bill. “Yet we have a checkerboard approach with police cameras in municipalities. There should be standardization.”

Moriarty initially introduced the bill a year ago following his 2012 arrest for drunken driving and other charges. All charges were later dropped after law enforcement reviewed dashboard camera video from the officer’s car.

To foot the bill for adding cameras, drunken driving fines would include a $25 surcharge.

Jon Moran, senior legislative analyst at the New Jersey League of Municipalities, told Senate committee members he appreciates the intent of the bill, but his group opposes it due to funding concerns.

“Absent an assurance of full funding by the state we have to oppose the bill,” Moran testified.” We think that it’s better the decision about whether to employ the technology is left up to local officials. They will bear most of the cost.”

The bill, S1305, could soon be considered on the Senate floor. The Assembly version, A2280, could also get floor consideration in the Assembly.

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