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June 18, 2015

Camden County Freeholders approve body cameras for police

The police department has already given body cameras a trial run

Police Body Cameras
041615_bodycamera Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, demonstrates one of the company's body cameras.

The Camden County Freeholder Board voted on Thursday night to fully equip the county’s police department with body cameras at a cost of $390,000.

Once implemented, more than 300 body cameras will be put into use in order to outfit all patrol officers, making the force the largest in South Jersey using body cameras.

The push to equip police comes in the wake of police-involved shootings in Missouri and New York that have sparked protests around the country and allegations of abuse and racism against police. Advocates for body cameras claim that having police record their interactions with the public can reduce tensions.

“It lets everyone know they are on candid camera,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, in an interview last year with the Record.

Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen agreed that body cameras provided real advantages for police. 

"Body cameras provide a more robust and objective record of citizen encounters, enhance the quality of excessive force investigations, permit more wide-ranging investigation and adjudication of civilian complaints," said Keashen. "They are not a panacea to policing, but we believe they are an excellent tool."

The Inquirer reported in April that Camden had the highest number of excessive-force complaints of any city in the state, beating out larger metropolitan areas like Newark. Police body cameras in some areas of the country were shown to reduce these complaints.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced a pilot program to help local police departments pay for body cameras. Keashen said Camden would ask for reimbursement from the Justice Department.

Camden will not be the first department in New Jersey to move forward with body cameras. Evesham Township did so last year and some of the state's other major cities have moved toward buying cameras for their police as well, according to the Record.

The department has already conducted a pilot program to test the cameras.