UNION COUNTY, NJ — In collaboration with local law enforcement executives, and in her continued efforts to implement progressive policing policy to improve officer safety, promote transparency in policing and address specific training needs of officers in the field, acting Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo is introducing the Union County Body Worn Camera Performance Review Pilot Program.
“I recognize that our office and law enforcement leaders across this county have an obligation to keep our community safe by providing our residents with the best-trained police force possible,” Ruotolo said. “We also have an obligation to keep our officers safe as they carry out their duties. Performance monitoring and early intervention are critical in achieving these standards. Better trained, better performing and better supervised law enforcement officers are more self-aware, safer, and provide more effective and impactful service to the public.”
The pilot program is made possible by the participation of three local departments: the Cranford Police Department under the leadership of Chief Ryan Greco, the Roselle Police Department under the leadership of Chief Brian Barnes and the Plainfield Police Division under the direction of Director Lisa Burgess. The program was created by Ruotolo and Jonathan Parham, director of countywide police policy, planning and training for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. The position held by Parham was created by Ruotolo as part of her reorganization of the UCPO and is the first of its kind. Parham will oversee and manage the 90-day body-worn camera pilot program, which aims to establish a consistent mechanism for the review of police body-worn camera footage across Union County.
In discussing the importance of the program with stakeholders in advance of launching the pilot, Parham said, “We must inspect what we expect.”
Research from the National Institute of Justice reports that agencies that utilize body-worn cameras experience greater officer accountability, heightened officer safety and a quicker resolution of civilian complaints.
The 90-day pilot program’s review of body-worn camera footage will call upon agencies to view a certain quantity of footage and log each officer’s actions in a database. These data points will compare officers’ responses to existing agency “best practices” to affirm what aspects of current training technique work and what requires improvement. Key events under review will be mental health calls, motor vehicle investigations, driving-while-intoxicated car stops and incidents during which officers unholster their firearms. The data collected during the pilot program will be used to inform training and policy decisions for law enforcement agencies countywide, with the hope of expanding the program to include additional events under review and the participation of every Union County law enforcement agency.
Every law enforcement agency within the county of Union is outfitted with body-worn cameras. Former acting Prosecutor Grace Park began that work during her time as head of the agency, and it was completed under former acting Prosecutor Michael Monahan. Many departments within Union County — including the Elizabeth Police Department under the direction of Director Earl Graves and acting Chief Giacomo Sacca — already have internal policies of review for camera footage, but this pilot program will allow the law enforcement community throughout Union County to identify and then address widespread training needs.