A New Jersey assemblyman is hoping that Governor Chris Christie doesn’t veto a bill that would require vehicles operated by law enforcement agencies in the state to be equipped with cameras. The same measure was passed in January, but the governor did not sign the bill into law before the end of the legislative session. Assemblyman Paul Moriarty introduced the bill after footage from a dashboard mounted camera helped to exonerate him after he was accused of drunk driving.
The footage showed that the assemblyman was not driving erratically when he was pulled over in July 2012 in Washington Township. The assemblyman was fortunate that the police cruiser was equipped with a camera: Only nine of the 41 vehicles operated by the Washington Township Police Department are so equipped. The officer who pulled Moriarty over is now facing a raft of charges, including official misconduct and filing a false police report.
The governor has until August 11 to veto the bill, which has received considerable support in both chambers of the legislature. One possible concern for lawmakers is the potential cost of the required cameras, which can cost as much as $8,000 to install in a police vehicle. However, the bill does offer cash-strapped police departments the option of equipping their officers with cameras that would be attached to their uniforms; these body-mounted cameras can cost as little as $300.
Police officers may not pull a vehicle over without probable cause, and criminal defense attorneys sometimes challenge the presence of this probable cause when seeking to have charges against their clients reduced or dismissed. Having a video record of all traffic stops will not only protect innocent motorists from being pulled over when they have done nothing wrong, but it could also protect police officers from false accusations of improper conduct.
Source: The Republic, “New Jersey lawmaker wrongly accused of DUI pushes for video cameras in new police cars”, Geoff Mulvihill, July 19, 2014