Lavallette police officers will be outfitted with body cameras, complete with a cloud-based storage service that saves recorded video on a server that can be accessed by the county prosecutor’s office.
All towns in New Jersey must outfit their officers with body cameras by June 1, 2021 to fill what is, at least currently, an unfunded mandate. That may change as a grant program is established to assist municipalities with compliance, but with the deadline approaching, the borough council on Monday night voted to award a contract worth $126,365 that will cover the cost of 20 Axon body cameras, video storage and software updates.
“These are mandatory,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone. “The chief of police, the records clerk and the internal affairs officer will be the only three people in the department who will have access to the film once it is submitted. There is a set schedule as to when you can purge it.”
The borough entered into the contract to buy the Axon 3 camera module through a state-negotiated fixed price. All full-time officers and Class II special officers, both of which can carry firearms, will be required to wear and use the body cameras during the course of interactions with the public or investigations they are conducting.
“The officers have to turn the cameras on when they are on a case, even if it seems insignificant,” said Filippone.
Borough Administrator Robert Brice, a former police chief in Wall Township, said the body cameras are required not only to record police activities, but to comply with new state laws regarding interactions with juveniles caught drinking or using marijuana illegally.
“Underage drinking and marijuana cases will include the camera mandate,” said Brice. “We do anticipate having them implemented by June 1 with the vendor getting the contract at this point. If you happen to look around at [council meeting] agendas of towns across the state, everyone is buying them as the date approaches.”
The cameras must be turned on by officers manually, however they are constantly recording. When the camera is activated, the previous 30 seconds of video are also stored in order to provide the full context of what is being recorded. The video can also be electronically transmitted to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office directly over a web interface maintained by Axon.
“We chose to go with Axon because they were one of the few companies that have filming that can transcend an entire 12 hour shift,” said Filippone. “If you went shorter, you’d have to have a secondary battery in the car, additional cameras and all kinds of other stuff. This is best for us and has some built-in protections for us.”
Each officer will be assigned his or her own camera, linked to them by an identifier, and their cameras will be stored in a charging station when not on duty.
“Our department feels this will be the best protection against any claims that are unsubstantiated,” Filippone said.