TRENTON – Leading the country’s efforts to protect civilians as well as law enforcement officers by equipping video cameras in police vehicles and on officers, today landmark legislation introduced by State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-NJ-4) and State Senator Donald Norcross (D-NJ-5) was signed into law by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Moriarty took up the issue after he was subject to a false arrest and the camera in the police vehicle substantiated his claims.
“As recent controversies have shown, it helps to have video footage to back up claims of excessive force and abuse of authority against civilians. Conversely, there are many good officers who have been wrongly accused of impropriety and this measure is designed to ensure their protection as well,” said Moriarty, Chairman of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
Moriarty 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.
“While the tragedy that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri is still being probed, it’s hard to comprehend why more states aren’t following our lead,” said Senator Donald Norcross, Chairman of the New Jersey Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, who co-prime sponsored the law with Moriarty.
“There’s the case of a former official who tried to use his position of authority to get out of a speeding ticket and accused the responding Trooper of being unprofessional. The dashboard cam backed up that officer. Law enforcers who abide by the law and don’t abuse their authority should appreciate this technology,” Norcross added.
Norcross also pointed to a national petition on the police camera issue which garnered 154,463 online signatures since it was created on August 13th in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting tragedy in Missouri. (Source: petitions.whitehouse.gov)
The key new provision of the law is that: “every new or used municipal vehicle purchased, leased, or otherwise acquired on or after the effective date (of this bill) which is primarily used for traffic stops shall be equipped with a mobile video recording system. As used in this section “mobile video recording system” means 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 provides funding for departments to pay for the equipment by increasing the surcharge imposed on people convicted of driving while intoxicated from $100 to $125 and directing the additional $25 to the department that issues the summons for that purpose.