Murphy signs laws mandating body cameras; leaders remember Trenton native Dinkins

State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan at the briefing.

In an effort to increase transparency in policing and build trust between police officers and the communities they serve, Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed two pieces of legislation that concern the use of body cameras worn by members of law enforcement.

The governor also signed Executive Order No. 201, which establishes a 14-member Interagency Working Group to provide recommendations to the Governor’s Office and attorney general regarding technology solutions to facilitate the statewide implementation of body-worn cameras in law enforcement agencies. The working group will work to identify barriers to adopting body cameras and recommend technology solutions to facilitate their implementation.

“We’ve made it clear that New Jersey will be second to none in enacting vital reforms to promote transparency and boost public confidence in law enforcement,” Murphy said. “Body-worn cameras are a wise all-around investment in public safety that not only redouble our commitment to transparency and accountability, but also ensure that members of law enforcement are equipped with an important tool to help them carry out their sworn duties. Today represents another step down what we know is a long road to full understanding and lasting trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Bill S1163 requires every uniformed state, county and municipal patrol law enforcement officer to wear a body-worn camera, subject to funding appropriated by the Legislature. Exceptions are permitted for officers engaged in undercover assignments, meeting with confidential informants, performing administrative or non-uniformed duties, and when directed by a superior officer for a lawful purpose.

Bill A4312 regulates the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Under the bill, officers would be required to keep the camera activated when responding to a call for service or when initiating a law enforcement or investigative encounter.

When immediate activation of the camera is impossible or dangerous, an officer would be required to activate the camera at the first reasonable opportunity to do so. Officers would be required to notify subjects that the camera is activated and, under certain conditions, may deactivate a camera upon the subject’s request. To protect the privacy of civilians in sensitive situations, the bill limits the use of body-worn cameras while officers are on school property, in medical facilities and in houses of worship.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the time has come for such requirements.

“We are in the midst of a national reckoning on racial justice, which has highlighted a lack of trust between law enforcement and many of the communities we serve,” he said. “Since Day One, we have been committed to rebuilding and strengthening that trust, and we know that body-worn cameras are an important tool in those efforts. They encourage professionalism, promote better interactions between police and the public, and have been universally welcomed by agencies across our state. Today, we not only take an important step towards the uniform, statewide use of body-worn cameras, but also towards making New Jersey a national leader on yet another set of policing policies and best practices. I thank the governor and the Legislature for their leadership and support in these efforts.”

Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said he welcomed the regulations.

“Today is a great day for New Jersey law enforcement and the communities we serve,” he said. “The statewide implementation of body-worn cameras represents an important step in strengthening the bonds of trust between police departments and communities while fostering greater transparency and accountability.

“The New Jersey State Police has learned that recording interactions with the public from patrol vehicles for the last two decades has been a valuable asset in protecting both our citizens and our troopers alike. The addition of body-worn camera technology is yet another layer of protection for our men and women in law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Other notes from Tuesday:

Health metrics

Murphy announced there were 4,383 new COVID-19 cases — meaning the days of more than 4,000 cases are now becoming the routine. The state’s cumulative total now stands at 313,863.

Murphy said there were also 48 new confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 15,007 — though everyone involved feels there are approximately 1,800 additional COVID-related deaths that cannot be properly categorized that way.

Murphy said there also were 10 new in-school outbreaks, leading to 30 new cases. There now have been 66 confirmed outbreaks leading to 269 total cases of in-school transmission since the start of the school year.

Dinkins remembered

David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, was remembered as a favorite son of Trenton by Murphy. Dinkins died Monday at the age of 93. Murphy ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff in his honor.

“The son of a Trenton barber and real estate broker, David Dinkins rose to lead New York City out of a time of political turmoil, seeking with a steady hand to heal longstanding rifts that had divided its residents,” Murphy said in a statement. “He faced early on the forces of discrimination that he would later commit his public career to breaking down when, as a student at Trenton Central High School, he wasn’t allowed to use the school’s swimming pool because of the color of his skin.

“That he was New York’s first Black mayor cemented a place for him in history, but he brought in other leaders who mirrored the city’s diversity, and initiated many of the changes that renewed its place on the world stage as a cultural center. Tammy and I send our condolences to David Jr. and Donna, and their families and friends, and all who worked alongside Mayor Dinkins.”

John Currie, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee chairman, spoke of Dinkins’ impact.

“David Dinkins was a role model for African American political leaders throughout the country as the first Black mayor of New York City,” he said. “I always found him to be a great inspiration and a tremendous public servant.

“I had the honor of meeting Mayor Dinkins on a number of occasions, and he was a kind, decent and thoughtful man who made tremendous progress in his time as mayor, helping usher in a new era for the greatest city in the world.”

Final word

Murphy on Thanksgiving:

“With Thanksgiving just two days away, we urge everyone to stay safe. Avoid gatherings. Wear a mask. Social distance.”