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Township Police Department ‘Solidifying’ Procedures For Possible Body Cam Program

The township police department has not yet finished its study of a program through which police officers would be deployed with body worn cameras. Photo: Fanwood Police Department.

The township Police Department has not yet finished its research into whether it would be feasible to equip officers with body worn cameras.

Police Chief Lawrence Roberts has said he is taking a slow approach to the program, mainly to make sure it’s financially feasible, in light of the “back end” costs associated with such a program.

The department was awarded three cameras in December 2015 through a grant program from the state Attorney General’s office. Franklin’s was one of 176 departments statewide which received a total of $2.5 million for the cameras at the time.

The state A.G.’s office recently awarded another $566,000 in grants for the cameras to law enforcement agencies in the state, including the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, and the South Bound Brook and Green Brook police departments.

Roberts said at the time of the township award that he would be waiting for guidelines on the use of the cameras from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Those guidelines were released in the fall of 2016, said Lt. Phil Rizzo, a police spokesman.

“We are in the process of solidifying our policy,” he said.

Deploying the cameras entails more than just attaching them to police officer’s shirts, he said.

There’s also the cost of docking stations, the cameras’ service contracts, software to allow the uploading of the video and a person to review and categorize the video once it is uploaded.

“The cameras themselves are not that expansive,” he said. “The expensive proposition is the back end.”

Rizzo said those “back end” expenses drive the per-camera cost from the initial $500 to about $5,000.

“If we were to outfit whole department, it would cost us close to $75,000, in addition to the camera costs,” he said.

“It’s not just something that’s as simple as putting a Go-Pro camera on a police officer,” he said. “The Attorney General’s guideline is very clear on how long things have to be maintained; certain things have to be tagged as confidential. It’s a very detailed program, and not something we take lightly.”

There’s also the cost of a person to monitor the video, Rizzo said.

“We will have to have an individual to be able to review every minute of this footage, and there are certain situations that the Attorney General mandates must be tagged,” he said. “Juvenile incidents, arrests, if there’s a possibility the footage could be used in a civil trial, that’s going to have to be maintained for seven years. That will pretty much be their sole job.”

Rizzo said the department has all the infrastructure in place, and has recently upgraded its network servers.

“Now it’s a matter of making sure that everything is appropriately implemented, and we don’t want to jump in feet first and realize that we’re in over our heads,” he said. “The administrative services division is researching and making sure it’s a workable program for the township.”

“The chief is committed to make sure that public safety is number one,” Rizzo said. “We also want to make sure we’re staying within the confines of strict budgets, we want to ensure that our officers have the best equipment available for their safety and the safety of the community, but we don’t want to break the bank while doing it.”

 

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