N.J. expands body camera requirement to apply to a broad range of law enforcement officers

All uniformed patrol officers in the state must be equipped with body cameras by June 1 under legislation signed by the governor in 2020. On Tuesday, the attorney general issued a directive that includes regulations for the appropriate use of body cameras and expands the law’s mandate, requiring a broad range of law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.

Officers assigned to tactical teams, proactive enforcement teams, canine units, or other duties that include regular interactions with the public will be required to be equipped with body cameras. Officers engaged in undercover assignments, administrative duties, or work with confidential informants are not required to wear the cameras.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said public trust will be strengthened by recording a wider range of police-citizen encounters, particularly those with a greater likelihood of a use-of-force or internal affairs complaint.

Body cameras must be activated in almost all police-citizen encounters. When possible, officers must notify citizens when they are being recorded by a body camera, and deactivate the camera if a crime victim requests that the recording is stopped. Officers are not allowed to record or gather intelligence information related to First Amendment protected speech, associations, or religion. The policy prohibits law enforcement officers from reviewing body camera recordings prior to preparing police reports in most cases. It also requires police departments to retain recordings for a longer period and allow the subjects of recordings to review the recordings for evidence. Officers who don’t follow the regulations will be disciplined.

The announcement of the attorney general’s new regulations comes on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, who was choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 of 2020.

Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement about the anniversary on Tuesday, outlining steps the state is taking to prevent police misconduct and police brutality and promote transparency.

“One year ago today, George Floyd was murdered, and the ensuing calls for justice following his death galvanized our nation. While some measure of justice was ultimately delivered for George Floyd and his family, it does not bring him, nor the many other victims of injustice, back. He, and they, should all be alive today. Over the past year, millions of Americans from every possible background have marched, protested, advocated, and prayed together. Together, we have come face-to-face with America’s long history of inequality and systemic racism. We will not accept this as just another part of our national condition. Instead, we have focused our energies on eliminating deep-seated racial inequities in wages, health care, housing, education, and in treatment by law enforcement,” Murphy said.

“In New Jersey we have enacted new laws to require that body cameras be worn by members of law enforcement and for the attorney general to independently investigate officer-involved deaths and to present evidence before a grand jury. We are updating use-of-force guidelines for the first time in a generation. And we support efforts to enhance transparency in making the disciplinary records of law enforcement public,” Murphy said.”Today is our moment to look back at the steps we have taken to right centuries-old wrongs. But today we also look ahead to the hard work that still remains, and we recommit to moving forward in George Floyd’s name and in the names of all who have been victims of injustice.”