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Middletown bond ordinance will provide funding for police body-worn cameras

MIDDLETOWN – The Township Committee has adopted a bond ordinance that provides an appropriation of $950,000 for the acquisition of body-worn cameras, in-car video and storage and accessories for the Middletown Police Department.

The ordinance authorizes the issuance of $650,807 in bonds or notes to finance a portion of the appropriation. Middletown expects to receive a grant in the amount of $264,940 from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety and the township will make a $34,253 down payment to account for the total appropriation.

The ordinance was adopted during the Aug. 16 meeting of the Township Committee. On a motion to adopt the ordinance, Mayor Tony Perry, Deputy Mayor Rick Hibell, Committeewoman Patricia Snell, Committeeman Kevin Settembrino and Committeeman Ryan Clarke voted “yes.”

Four affirmative votes were required to adopt the bond ordinance.

The action helps Middletown comply with two new state laws.

In November 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed two pieces of legislation (S-1163 and A-4312) into law which concern the use of body worn cameras by members of law enforcement, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

S-1163 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 who are 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.

A-4312 regulates the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Under the law, officers are 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 is required to activate the camera at the first reasonable opportunity to do so. Officers are required to notify subjects 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, according to the press release.

“We have made it clear 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,” Murphy 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,” said Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

“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,” Callahan said.

“This (law) will ensure transparency for the public and our law enforcement members,” said Pat Colligan, president, New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association. “It will enhance officer safety and help us continue the extraordinarily high level of service we continue to provide the residents of our state.”

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