|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced $2.5 million in awards for 176 police departments across New Jersey to buy body-worn cameras for their officers. The awards – made with criminal forfeiture funds – will support purchases of more than 5,000 body cameras and will put New Jersey in the forefront in the U.S in embracing this technology to promote transparency, mutual accountability, and trust between police and the community.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman announced the availability of the $2.5 million on July 28 and invited police agencies to apply for the funds through the county prosecutors. Today, he announced the specific awards by agency. Most of the agencies received funding for all of the body cameras they requested. A full list of the awards by agency is posted with this press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
In July, Acting Attorney General Hoffman also announced plans to fully equip the New Jersey State Police with body cameras, at a cost of $1.5 million. The State Police have received the first 100 body cameras out of approximately 1,000 that will be phased in over the coming months. The first 100 cameras are being used for testing and to develop protocols and training, in preparation for the rollout of body-worn cameras on patrol. The new cameras will complement the mounted cameras in every patrol vehicle, which have been used by the State Police for the past 16 years.
“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 Acting Attorney General 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.”
“We’re gratified that we’re fully meeting nearly every request we received for the purchase of body cameras,” said Director Elie Honig 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.”
At the same time that he announced the funding for body cameras, Acting Attorney General Hoffman also issued a statewide policy designed to promote best practices and uniformity in using the devices. The new policy – which guides police departments statewide that decide to deploy body cameras – establishes foundational requirements while allowing individual police departments to tailor policies to local needs. In drafting the policy, the Attorney General’s Office analyzed policies in use in municipalities in New Jersey and other states, studied materials from the Police Executive Research Forum, and hosted a conference in April for police departments already using body cameras or making plans to deploy them.
The Attorney General’s Directive on Body Cameras is posted at this link: www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/directives/2015-1_BWC.pdf
Over the past year, the Attorney General’s Office has held meetings with law enforcement leaders, civil rights organizations and community advocates in New Jersey to discuss ways to strengthen police-community relations and enhance public trust and confidence with respect to police use of force. Those meetings were instrumental in the development of the Attorney General’s initiatives to expand and guide the use of body-worn cameras by police in New Jersey. That outreach also informed a new directive issued by Attorney General Hoffman in July that strengthened New Jersey’s already widely respected procedures for independent and impartial investigations of all police-involved shootings and deadly force incidents in New Jersey.