Pemberton Township, N.J., Purchases Police Body Cams

The police department received approval from the township council Wednesday night for the purchase of almost $120,000 worth of technology to equip its nearly 40 officers with body-worn cameras.

by George Woolston, Burlington County Times / October 18, 2019

(TNS) — Pemberton Township, N.J., police officers will soon be required to wear a new piece of equipment on a daily basis.

The police department received approval from the township council Wednesday night for the purchase of almost $120,000 worth of technology to equip its nearly 40 officers with body-worn cameras.

Last September, the township received a $75,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant to purchase the cameras, but it took the department a year to meet the requirements required by the grant and to select the right technology for the force, Chief David Jantas said.

Those requirements included attending a national symposium on body cameras held this April, working with other police departments to compare the specifications and functions of cameras that meet the department's needs and making sure the cameras comply with the New Jersey Attorney General's directives.

Jantas said that now the purchases have been approved, its expected officers will be wearing the cameras by mid-November.

"We're pleased with this and excited to get this part of the process," Jantas said Wednesday. "Even the rank and file members of the police department are excited to get this. It has the support of the unions, individual officers, we know its a good thing."

Officers will receive one day of specific equipment training once the cameras arrive, Jantas said, adding that officers have already been briefed on the department's policy for the cameras' use.

Officers will be required to activate their body cameras "anytime they're working in the capacity of a police officer ... anytime they're dealing with the public or responding to a call," Jantas said.

The total cost of the cameras from Panasonic is $102,000. The police department is also looking to spend $6,800 on four computers and eight monitors for the cameras and $14,250 on redaction software.

Jantas said that in addition to the grant, the department is using money from its 2018 operating budget and drug forfeiture funds to purchase the technology.

Pemberton Township is one of the largest police forces in Burlington County to move forward with purchasing cameras for officers to wear and will join the ranks of over 20 other county police departments that equip officers with body-worn cameras.

"They're (body cameras) not the answer to everything, but they're a key piece of equipment used in law enforcement to make sure everything is done above board," Jantas said

The township's lack of body cameras came back into focus after Witney Rivera, 41, was shot and killed by a Pemberton Borough police officer in the township's Sunbury Village on July 19. Officers in Pemberton Township, and in the much smaller neighboring Pemberton Borough, were not equipped with body cameras.

The lack of video footage of the incident could make the investigation more difficult for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. Under a law passed at the beginning of the year, the AG's office now investigates all police-involved shootings. There was dash cam video released of the incident.

As of January 2017, about half of New Jersey's roughly 500 law enforcement agencies were either using the cameras or were in the process of acquiring them, including 21 of the 32 municipal police departments in Burlington County, plus the Burlington County Sheriff's Department and state police troopers patrolling the county.

There is no law requiring police departments in New Jersey to deploy body-worn cameras on their officers, although legislation to mandate officers to wear the devices has repeatedly been introduced by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-15th of Lawrence.

Turner first introduced the measure in September 2014 shortly after civil unrest surrounding a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, but neither it, nor companion legislation in the Assembly, have advanced from committees to floor votes in either chamber.

©2019 Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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