County gets many more body cameras from state

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Sixteen Union County agencies are among the 176 New Jersey police departments which have been awarded body-worn cameras, to be paid for by the state, announced Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman on Monday, Dec. 21.

More than 750 body-worn cameras, worth a combined $376,500, will be put to use across the county, including 250 cameras in Elizabeth, 60 in Rahway and 55 with the Union County Police Department. In total, the state is paying $2.5 million for the body-worn cameras, via criminal forfeiture funds.

“We clearly are leading the nation when it comes to our efforts in New Jersey to deploy body-worn cameras to promote transparency and mutual accountability of police and civilians,” said Hoffman. “The overwhelming response we received from law enforcement to our offer of funding demonstrates that police officers are embracing this technology to protect themselves, assist them in their work, and foster stronger police-community relations.”

Over the summer, Hoffman invited police agencies to apply for the funds through their county prosecutors. And in September, Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park announced her office had partnered with eight municipalities, across the county, to kickstart the Body Camera Pilot Program.

“They promote professionalism, by providing a record of precisely what was said, what was done, what resulted from the police situation. They eliminate any ambiguity, by providing a clear and easily accessible visual account of them,” said Park, at a press conference. “Time and time again, in these communities these departments serve, situations which in the past could have turned into powder kegs will be diffused. Events that could have led to internal investigations, cost hundreds of man hours and untold thousands of dollars in resources and legal expenses, instead simply never happen.”

The Body Camera Pilot Program was initiated in Elizabeth, Fanwood, Garwood, Linden, Mountainside, Plainfield, Scotch Plains and Roselle Park. Other county municipalities now using body-worn cameras, as a result of Hoffman’s announcement, are Berkeley Heights, Clark, New Providence, Springfield and Rahway. The Sheriff’s Department is also receiving 13.

“We’re gratified that we’re fully meeting nearly every request we received for the purchase of body cameras,” said Elie Honig, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “There is a sea change happening right now across New Jersey as law enforcement leaders recognize how these powerful devices serve the interest of both police and the community.”