New Jersey Assembly approves police-cam push

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/4/2014

A bill halfway through the New Jersey statehouse 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 Assembly voted 47-25 to advance a bill that would require all newly acquired municipal police vehicles that are primarily used for traffic stops to be equipped with cameras. A2280 now moves to the Senate.

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 to a few thousand dollars for dash cams.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester/Camden, has led the charge on the effort 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.

“I was lucky the police car was equipped with a camera, but I realize not everyone will be as fortunate,” Moriarty said in prepared remarks.

He said the bill would protect drivers and police officers against false allegations.

“(The cameras) don’t forget. They don’t change their testimony. They don’t lie. It is a perfect document of what took place.”

To help 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, recently told members of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee 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 Office of Legislative Services also estimates the total municipal costs would exceed the amount of revenue raised through drunken driving fines.

A2280 awaits consideration in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. An identical Senate bill, S1305, is also in the committee.

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