As reported by, Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman said Wednesday his “instincts and intuition are certainly pro-body camera” for police in New Jersey, but he has concerns about how their use might infringe on privacy in cases such as domestic abuse or sexual assault.  Hoffman said during an Assembly budget hearing in Trenton that a working group within his office was studying the matter “very closely” to determine whether a statewide directive for law enforcement should be developed in support of the use of the cameras.

“My instincts and my intuitions are certainly pro-body camera, but…we really need to make sure we’re very careful to accommodate a very complex issue,” Hoffman said, noting there may need to be restrictions on releasing the videos to the media and public.  Calls for more widespread use of body cameras have increased during the past year in the wake of several high-profile encounters involving police, and President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force recommended wider implementation to improve transparency.  Obama has also pushed for greater federal funding, while last month also warning people that it was not a “panacea,” and more would need to be done to rebuild the trust between the public, particularly minorities, and police departments.

Research shows dramatic reductions in complaints against officers who use body cameras and a reduction in unfounded complaints.  The devices also lead to quicker resolutions of complaints and help agencies identify and prove officer misconduct.  The recordings can also be used to improve officer training and techniques.

Three New Jersey municipalities, Glassboro, Paulsboro, and Evesham, currently use body cameras, and this week Rowan University announced its police officers had been issued body cameras, making it the first New Jersey college to use the devices.  But there are no statewide rules and regulations, leaving it up to each department to determine how to deal with dicey issues such as when the public must be informed of the recording, who can see recordings, and how long they should be kept.

Hoffman said there were complex privacy issues to consider as well.  He gave examples such as an officer at a scene of sexual assault with an injured victim and various evidence, or an officer who responds to a call for a domestic assault and someone won’t allow entrance to a home because of the recording, even though an assault may be ongoing inside.  “It’s more important from my perspective to do it right than to do it fast,” Hoffman said.

He has not requested funding for the cameras for State Police, but said if a decision was made to implement them, he could use criminal forfeiture funds to cover the cost.  The State Senate passed a bill (S2649) in December to create a task force to study the implementation of body cameras, but it has not yet received a hearing in the Assembly.

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.