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New Jersey Officers Require Video Recording Under New Law

Dash cams in patrol cars are very effective in recording intoxicated drivers. They have also served well in West Deptford’s police cruisers in the last nine years.

Video footage from dash cams are used to serve as proof in the court system. They also help in preventing lengthy drags in court and in other cases, they may even be used against the offender. Depending on the video recording, the prosecutor may say that the case ‘really doesn’t have a defense.’

The $52,000 camera systems installed in West Deptford’s police cruisers started malfunctioning over the years as they needed to be repaired. As the cameras became old, they stopped properly recording video and audio. Sometimes there was audio but no video and vice versa. In cases where attorneys asked for footage of stops, none was available in most cases.

Sean McKenna, West Deptford’s deputy police chief says, “It’s just been a nightmare.”

The department now needs modern cameras which will need a funding of $30,114 or more. The trend of purchasing such equipment will soon grow in New Jersey.

A new bill signed on Wednesday night by Gov. Christie requires that all police vehicles be fitted with video recording systems. If they do not have the systems installed in their vehicles, then the officers should carry the recording equipment. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty who faced a DWI charge in July 2012. However, the charges against him were dismissed after the video recording of his arrest was used to prove that Moriarty was not at fault and was driving normally.

The new bill will take effect in six months and it applies to new police vehicles only, not the old ones.

According to Moriarity, police officers will not be required to install new equipment in the existing vehicles. They will need to be installed in new vehicles only. So if no new cars are bought this year, they don’t pay anything. This is going to be an issue for smaller departments as they won’t have the funds to install the cameras.

According to McKenna, a new recording system was proposed by the West Deptford police in the budget last year and also in the year before that. However, the price for the proposed system was too steep.

McKenna said that a local company donated $10,000 to help overcome the fiscal hill. The remaining funds will come from capital improvement funds, amounting to $20,000.

New cameras have been installed in nine of the department’s cruisers which will transmit footage to a server wirelessly from the vehicles. The new cameras will not require manual transmission of the footage like it used to be for the old cameras.

A lot of the old cameras were taking thousands of dollars in repair of cameras and microphones. Most of the devices have to be sent back to the recording company to be replaced, and the old cameras cause a lot of trouble for the police department as the recorded footage without video or audio not only causes a lot of frustration, but it also wastes a lot of time.

“We haven’t lost any cases just because of the video, but it’s always there to help our case,” said McKenna.

There are so many similar cases to Moriarty’s case, like the case of a young woman who swerved two to three times between lanes. However, the video then showed that the woman was later trying to avoid potholes. So web cam recordings can be used by both the prosecutors and the defending lawyer in the case.

According to the new bill, convicted drunken drivers will be required to pay $25 as surcharge which will be used to fund the technology.

News Source: Mobile.Philly.com

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