As reported by NJ.com, troopers at three State Police stations began patrolling with body-worn cameras this weekend as the Division prepares to outfit every officer on the road with the technology. Uniformed troopers assigned to Bordentown, Bellmawr, and Red Lion stations turned on their cameras on Saturday as part of an “initial deployment program,” according to a State Police spokesman.
The rollout of body camera technology at New Jersey’s largest police force comes amid a climate of national scrutiny of police practices. The Division was among the first police forces in the state to use dashboard cameras, in part due to federal oversight for racial profiling. “Attaching the cameras to our troopers will us more information in a variety of locations,” Col. Rick Fuentes, the Superintendent of the State Police, said in a statement. “They will help protect troopers and the public by creating an objective record of our interactions.”
About 200 of the State’s more than 500 police agencies use body cameras in some capacity, according to the State Attorney General’s Office, which has encouraged their use through a series of grants meant to defray their costs and a new directive outlining rules for their use. But the push has seen criticism both from the unions representing troopers who objected to the Attorney General’s new rules and from civil liberties advocates who say state authorities have curtailed public access to the footage.
New Jersey’s body camera program is paid for through state forfeiture funds. The U.S. Department of Justice also recently announced federal funds for several New Jersey agencies, including the State Police, Newark, Camden, Evesham, and Haledon. The cameras will capture audio and video with a wide-angle lens attached to the front of the trooper’s uniform and will be activated at the start of any interaction with the public, authorities said, including traffic stops, accidents, calls for service and criminal investigations.
State Police officials declined to disclose how many troopers at the three stations are currently outfitted with body cameras, but the DOJ grant indicates they intend to use federal funds to outfit 1,575 uniformed officers. The Division has a total of 2,600 sworn members.