ELIZABETH — Union County is about to become the first county in New Jersey that is patrolled exclusively by local law enforcement officers wearing body cameras.

Starting January, all municipal police will be wearing body cams that keep a video record of everything that happens.

According to Union County Acting Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan, this is an important step forward.

“The public expects transparency and accountability from their police, and we embrace it. Frankly, it also protects our officers from unfounded complaints of misconduct.”

He said in some instances a person on the street will use their cell phone to record an incident where police are using force to subdue a defendant but the video won’t show why police were initially called to the scene.

He said in towns where body cams are being used, the results have been positive.

“The incidence of unfounded complaints of misconduct plummet, and that is because the body worn cameras capture what really happened," Monahan said.

The body cams are turned on by officers heading out on patrol and they stay on except in certain situations.

“They would not be rolling in a school, they would not be rolling in a domestic violence situation,” said Monahan.

A directive by the state Attorney General’s Office spells out in detail when body cameras should not be used in order to protect privacy.

Funding for body cams has come from federal and state grants, as well as criminal forfeiture funds. Each camera costs about $500, but cloud storage fees are the major expense.

 

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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