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PATROL CAR CAMERAS

 

September, 2003 Editorial

 

       The patrol car mounted video camera. This idea was met with much skepticism by the officers who would it affect. After all, the biggest proponents for the idea where those groups who get their 15 minutes by publicly bashing the law enforcement profession.

 

       However, an interesting result came about. Instead of putting more headache on the law enforcement community, the cameras were saving officers hides.

 

       Take the New Jersey State Police for example. No other agency in the nation has taken the abuse that has been thrown their way. Anti-police groups were screaming for patrol mounted video cameras to finally catch these “rogue” officers on tape. The cameras were installed. So, what happened?

 

 

 

These “rogue” officers were getting cleared of wrongdoing at a higher rate then before the cameras were installed. In 2000, 584 complaints about Trooper misconduct were received by their IA equivalent, the Office of Professional Standards (Not bad for an agency of more than 2,500 members). The patrol car camera alone cleared more than ten percent of those officers. In a statement released NJSP said, “In 67 cases, the review of videotapes has allowed the Office of Professional Standards to expeditiously close investigations.

 

       Additionally, the in-car camera video tapes have demonstrated that a number of citizen complaints are totally without merit and are maliciously filed with the intent of resolving or mitigating traffic summonses - cases that are reviewed for possible prosecution by either the Division of Criminal Justice or county prosecutors' offices.”  Many of the original skeptics in law enforcement now swear by the patrol car camera. Yes, there are still those who don’t care for the “big brother” element of the camera, but many are becoming converts.

 

       How many incidents can you recall where you only wish that you had a camera recording everything?

 

       In today’s climate, it seems that we have more to fear by not having the camera. Some citizens have no hesitation about filing a false complaint and attacking an officer in pursuit of revenge, an improved stance in the courtroom, or just out of pure, ignorant, disdain for law enforcement.

Whether it be in the intake area of the Atlantic County Jail, the booking room of the Holmdel Police Department, or on a vehicle dashboard during a motor vehicle stop on Route 78, if we're following the rules, a camera can only help us.

 

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