Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Paul D. Moriarty, Charles Mainor, Angel Fuentes, Gabriela Mosquera and Pamela Lampitt that would eventually equip all police cars in New Jersey with cameras received approval on Monday from a Senate panel.
The bill (A-2280) comes after Moriarty’s own personal experience. The bill was first introduced and approved by both houses in the last legislative session, but it was pocket vetoed by the governor. The governor offered no explanation as to why he chose to take no action on the bill.
Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden) was charged with drunken driving and other charges in July 2012 in Washington Township, but Moriarty told police he had nothing to drink that day.
Dashboard camera video from the officer’s car showed Moriarty did not cut off the officer, as the officer claimed, and showed Moriarty passing sobriety tests without problem. The charges against Moriarty were dismissed in early May, and the officer who filed the allegations has now been indicted on 14 criminal counts accusing him of making a false arrest and lying to support his claims.
“Without the dashboard camera, it would have been my word against the officer’s,” said Moriarty. “The video provided definite proof of what transpired and who was telling the truth. This was an experience that no law-abiding resident should have to go through.”
“I was lucky the police car was equipped with a camera, but I realize not everyone will be as fortunate,” added Moriarty. “A visual record of a traffic stop not only helps protect residents against a potential injustice, it provides police with the best evidence to use in court. It’s a win-win.”
Under the bill, every new or used municipal police vehicle purchased, leased or otherwise acquired on or after the bill’s effective date that is primarily used for traffic stops must be equipped with a mobile video recording system.
The legislation defines a “mobile video recording system” as a device or system installed or used in a police vehicle or worn or otherwise used by an officer that electronically records visual images depicting activities that take place during a motor vehicle stop or other law enforcement action.
The bill increases, from $100 to $125, the current surcharge imposed on persons convicted of driving while intoxicated. The bill provides for the additional $25 surcharge to be payable to the state, county or municipal entity that issued the summons, and stipulates that the increased amounts payable to municipalities from the surcharge must be used for the cost of equipping police vehicles with mobile video recording systems.
The bill is to take effect on the first day of the sixth month following enactment, but permits the attorney general to take prior administrative actions in advance of the bill’s effective date.
“With so much technology available, it almost seems antiquated not to equip police cars with cameras,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “Having a visual recording of traffic stops protects both law enforcement and motorists against false claims that can have serious repercussions.”
“Motorists who do the right thing and police officers who do their jobs the right way have nothing to worry about from this bill,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Plus, under this bill, the taxpayers don’t have to pay for this added protection.”
“It is tough to lie about a sequence of events when it is all captured on video,” said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Installing these cameras on police cars can protect motorists and police officers against false allegations, and would not cost the taxpayers any money.”
“Our goal must be to ensure fair and impartial enforcement of the law. Preventing mistakes and unfair accusations – whether they come from citizens or unscrupulous officers – is key to ensuring fair enforcement of our laws,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “These cameras can provide impartial proof against the false accusations of an individual with an axe to grind.”
The bill was released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today after having been passed 48-24-5 last month by the Assembly.