Roselle receives grant to purchase body cameras

ROSELLE, NJ — The borough of Roselle has received a grant to purchase body cameras from the office of the New Jersey State Attorney General.

Roselle is the first municipality in Union County to receive a grant this year, and the borough is expected to purchase 30 units.

The $15,000 grant from Attorney General Christopher Porrino is part of the 2016 Body Worn Camera Assistance Program, sponsored by the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Funds will be used by the Roselle Police Department to purchase the units, which would include the camera, power supply, chargers, docking stations and harnesses.

The cost of each unit is approximately $762, with Roselle being awarded the maximum grant amount of $500 per unit, and will provide the additional cash match of $262.55 per unit to purchase the 30 units, according to a press release.
In September, Porrino announced the availability of funds and invited applications from agencies that had not received funds in the prior round of funding in 2015.

On Jan. 11, Porrino announced that $566,000 in awards for 37 law enforcement agencies across the state to buy body-worn cameras would be granted. Since 2015, the OAG has provided more than $4.5 million, including the new round of funds, to enable the New Jersey State Police and other police departments across New Jersey to buy their officers body cameras in the hopes of promoting transparency, mutual accountability and trust between police and the community.

The 37 agencies that applied received funds, and most received funding for all of the body cameras they requested. The funds will be used to purchase a total of 1,132 body cameras.

Police departments in 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties have received awards.
“We’ve made positive police-community relations a top priority in New Jersey through policies and programs that have been embraced by law enforcement and community stakeholders alike, including our efforts to promote the use of body cameras by police,” Porrino told LocalSource in a statement. “This new round of funding for body cameras will keep New Jersey in the vanguard nationally in using this technology, which promotes transparency in policing while protecting officers in their difficult and dangerous jobs.”

Roselle Councilman Reginald Atkins, who is also chair of the borough’s Public Safety Committee, told LocalSource that he has become increasingly aware of the expanding use of body-worn cameras by police nationally, specifically in light of recent events in various communities between citizens and police.

“A few months ago, I had requested that the Roselle Police Department, in consultation with our municipal grant writer, seek a grant for this equipment in order to defray the cost,” Atkins said in an email. “As a result of my initial research request, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Body Worn Camera Assistance Grant Program was brought to my attention. I requested that our municipal grant writer begin the process to prepare and submit a grant application in cooperation with Roselle Police Chief Gerard Orlando.”

Atkins said the initiative to improve methods of community policing started under former Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley.

“For several years, going back to the mayoralty of now-Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley, we have worked to increase methods of community policing, to increase police transparency and to increase positive interaction between our police officers and residents,” Atkins said.

According to Atkins, body-worn cameras will enhance public safety in several meaningful ways, including providing both video and audio recordings of interactions between the Roselle Police Department and members of the public, as well as other incidents involving the community that could require a police response.

“The cameras can serve as a de-escalation tool for any given situation because all parties involved are aware that the interaction is being recorded,” Atkins said. “The video and sound recording provided by the body-worn camera will provide a real-time corroboration of what transpired and may be used in court as evidence.”

This round of grants is being provided using funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. JAG funds are appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Justice to assist states and local units of government in carrying out programs to prevent and control crime and to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system. In July 2015, Gov. Chris Christie and the Attorney General’s Office announced a total of $4 million in funding for body cameras using criminal forfeiture funds. They announced $1.5 million in funding to fully equip the New Jersey State Police with body cameras for every officer conducting patrol duties. They also announced $2.5 million in grant funding that was awarded to 176 police departments for the purchase of more than 5,000 cameras.

According to Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, police departments across the state are becoming increasingly aware of the many benefits of body cameras.

“We’re rapidly reaching the tipping point where a majority of the police departments in New Jersey will have body cameras, and the remaining departments are likely to follow suit,” Honig said in a statement. “Police departments recognize that these devices are powerful tools for promoting mutual accountability and trust between police and the communities they serve.”

According to the OAG, the decision to acquire body-worn cameras — while remaining up to individual police departments and municipalities — is strongly supported by Porrino.

In 2015, Porrino issued a statewide policy that established guidelines for deploying the cameras. Prior to Porrino’s funding and policy, 50 police agencies in New Jersey had body cameras.

Approximately 240 police departments in New Jersey — nearly half of the roughly 500 law enforcement agencies in the state — have purchased or are in the process of purchasing body cameras.

The purchase of the body cameras and the program’s implementation in Roselle are expected to take place in early spring 2017 once the council formally accepts the grant and the program is officially signed off by the OAG.

Atkins said that he is proud that Roselle can lead the way for other municipalities.

“I, along with other members of the borough council, am very proud that the borough of Roselle has taken the lead by implementing a Body Worn Camera program in Union County,” Atkins said. “I am confident that Roselle’s leadership on this program can serve as an effective model for other towns. However, towns must make their decisions independently at a local level in cooperation with their respective police departments and with the opportunity for public comment as the Borough of Roselle did.”