On May 25, 2021, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Directive 2021-5 which requires that all uniformed patrol officers are required to be equipped with body worn cameras (“BWC”) by June 1, 2021. The directive also expanded the law’s mandate to include additional officers, and ensuring appropriate use of BWCs. This directive includes that officers assigned to tactical teams, proactive enforcement teams, canine units, or regular interaction with the public must utilize BWC. Officers in undercover assignments, administrative duties, or working with confidential informants are among those not required to utilize BWC.
The previous directive, 2015-1 included the initial set of guidelines for BWC programs across New Jersey. However, law enforcement agencies, county prosecutors, and the Attorney General’s Office have learned important lessons on the best practices to maximize effectiveness of BWCs. The policy includes a number of new rules including a requirement that officers notify citizens when they are being recorded by a BWC; deactivate a BWC upon the request of a crime victim; and refrain from recording to gather intelligence information based on First Amendment protected speech, associations or religion. Finally, the policy prohibits law enforcement officers form reviewing BWC recordings prior to preparing initial police reports in most cases; incorporates longer retention periods for BWC recordings; provides additional opportunities for subjects of BWC recordings to review the evidence, and provides for disciplinary action against those who violate the policy. Click here to read more at www.njoag.gov.
This directive is a crucial step in the direction towards justice for defendants in New Jersey. It not only holds law enforcement accountable, but it allows for the gathering of more concise and accurate evidence. In a time where the country has been thrown into an ongoing wave of civil unrest due to the death of George Floyd, this policy aims to continue to build trust with the public by promoting professionalism, enhancing transparency, and ensuring accountability across the law enforcement profession.