Justice for All: Some lawmakers already pushing for changes to new body cam mandate
New Jersey lawmakers are rushing to make changes to the state’s barely-on-the-books laws about police body cameras.
A Democrat from Essex County, who also happens to be a sheriff’s officer, is pushing to allow cops to be able to review body camera footage before writing up reports.
“If we want to hold police officers accountable and, you know, want to make sure they have integrity and are doing their job, why not give them the necessary tools to do their job?” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight during a committee hearing on the potential law.
It’s the latest twist in a series of changes to policing in New Jersey.
Body cameras have already captured a hero cop in Newark performing CPR.
They’re quickly taking center stage in the high-profile arrest of a Paterson officer.
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Still, for some social justice advocates, allowing cops to see the footage before going on the record could taint officers’ memories.
“It does allow the bad apples to create a different narrative or to explain away the things that are problematic or that might be dangerous for other citizens,” said Karen Thompson, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
Those behind the bill say the review will help with accuracy, especially as cops go on multiple calls per shift and sometimes won’t complete reports for days.
The laws right now allow police to review footage after filing reports, but Speight says any changes can have consequences.
“We would be looked at as a liar if that report is not lined up with the body camera footage.”
Under this bill, it would still be illegal for cops to check the cameras under certain circumstances. Some of these circumstances include any encounter that includes use of force, leads to death or injury or is the subject of a complaint.
The bill already cleared a bipartisan Assembly committee. It’s unclear when it will go up for a vote in front of the rest of the Assembly.
Text and reporting by Nick Meidanis