RPPD Officers Will Start Wearing Body-Worn Cameras

The Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD) will begin using body-worn cameras (BWC) on patrol officers as part of a six-month pilot program. RPPD was one of a handful of police departments in the county selected by Union County Prosecutor Grace Park to participate. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office purchased the cameras, which were already in the police department’s five-year capital budget outlook as a future purchase in 2018 (link), along with the first year service contract with TASER – the company supplying the equipment – for $45,000.

Police Chief Paul Morrison stated that the RPPD plans to continue with the program after the pilot program ends in Spring of 2016. The department entered into five-year agreement with TASER and would, in October 0f 2016, be responsible to fund the program. The cost for the subsequent years were reviewed by Ken Blum, the municipality’s Chief Financial Officer, and he assured RPPD that funding was available.

Chief Morrison stated, “I think this is a great program. Times are changing. All the information I get from the Attorney General’s office is that this is going to be mandatory at some point. I think it’s a good thing that we voluntarily entered into this to show the professionalism of our officers here in Roselle Park.”

All patrol officers will be trained in the use of the BWCs and will be required to wear the camera during their patrol duties and will be required to activate the camera when interacting with the public during official police duties. According to Police Chief Morrison, the BWC may be turned off by an officer during certain interactions. These instance will be in line with the strict guidelines issued from the Attorney General’s Office concerning the use of a BWC that specify when the camera shall be activated and when a camera may remain off, or be turned off, by an officer. The policy includes that BWCs must be activated during traffic stops, witness interviews, custodial interrogations, protective frisks, searches and arrests, and during deadly force incidents and related on-scene investigations.

The policy prohibits use of a body camera where it would expose an undercover officer or confidential informant. It also limits and imposes strict requirements on recording in a private home, school, hospital, or place of worship unless responding to a crime or emergency. Police, according to the policy, are to take reasonable steps to inform the public that they are using body cameras and requires officers to be truthful if asked if they are using a body camera. A police officer must notify a person if a camera is activated in a person’s home or when interacting with a crime victim anywhere. A camera may de-activated if needed to secure cooperation from a person who requests it but must document the reasons. Police departments are required to adopt systems to ensure secure retention of camera footage; to prevent tampering or deletion; to restrict access to appropriate persons and purposes; and to document all instances when footage is accessed.

“This program is a positive step forward in policing,” commented Chief Morrison, “I believe the BWC will prove to be an effective tool for police officers and will not only assist officers in their daily patrol duties but will also protect officers from false – and sometimes – costly allegations against them and/or the Police Department. The BWC will certainly protect officers as well as the public during their interactions with officers. It’ll surely show the professionalism of our officers. It’s going to protect them as well as the public.”

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office will be monitoring the program closely for the six-month period and plans to view officers’ cameras on a periodic basis.