GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge Police Department has recently upgraded the body cameras all of its 23 officers wear while on duty. According to Sgt. Matthew Koc, the information technology administrator, the equipment purchase was possible with a $57,000 state grant. The office of the state attorney general, he said, instituted a newer rule requiring all police department personnel to wear body cameras. But the GRPD, he added, had already been employing them since 2017. These had also been purchased with a state grant. The more recent grant was used to purchase newer models from another supplier.
“If I leave the building,” Koc said, “I’m supposed to have one on even while wearing business attire.”
The older body cams were two-piece units: a camera attached to the digital video recorder by a wire. These were made by Digital Ally Inc. and Koc said that he often had to repair the wire and sometimes the cameras. The newer models are one piece, made by Motorola, and attach to the protective vest of the patrol officer with a magnet; Glen Ridge has 16 patrol officers. For administrative personnel, the camera will attach to the belt. The cameras also have the ability to title the recorded scene.
“The cameras are really nice,” Koc said. “Basically, they’re very durable. This makes me very happy. Police work is very wear-and-tear intensive.”
Koc said the body camera has become more important in policing than a firearm.
“In the modern era, it’s more important to have things on video,” he said. “It does amazing things, helping the officer out in criminal court. The camera is always on, generally, when there is an interaction with the public.”
Koc is responsible for maintaining the recordings for a certain period of time, as required by law. But with the GRPD being a small-sized department, recordings can be kept for as long as there is memory space.
“The state says depending on the incident determines how long it’s kept,” he said.
Each GRPD officer is assigned their own camera, which is plugged into a dock for recharging with any recordings being downloaded into a storage server. Patrol car recordings, however, are electronically transmitted, without a physical connection to a dock.
“A lot of departments have subscription services and the information is stored in the cloud,” Koc said. “But I’m concerned about the price of a subscription service. How much will it cost the town in five years?”
The recordings are not all reviewed by supervising officers. The amount of time that would take, Koc said, would be astronomical. Instead, they are reviewed periodically and randomly.
The use of body cameras, he said, puts the public on their best behavior because they know they are being recorded.
“There’s a big red light that goes on when the camera is recording,” he said.
Nonetheless, an officer must inform a person they are being recorded.
But if the officer enters someone’s home, generally, if they are asked not to record, the GRPD will comply, Koc said. Also, they will not record juveniles or medical facilities. The camera models used by the GRPD do not have a function that turns off the camera and allows for only an audio recording.
But while cameras may have put the public on their best behavior, the behavior of GRPD officers has not changed, in Koc’s estimation.
“We have a very professional department,” he said, “so I want to say that the officers’ behavior has not changed. Our behavior is always good. Body cameras show the community our level of integrity, that we’re doing what we should be doing, day after day.”
In additional GRPD news, Lt. Timothy Faranda urged residents to make sure they are locking their car doors and removing the key fobs from their cars.
“We made a big push back in March on our social media accounts, as did the Office of the Attorney General, on the importance of locking your vehicles and removing the keys,” he said.
According to Faranda, after the GRPD emphasized its concern, there were no stolen vehicles reported until June 27.
“Residents really heeded the message,” he said. “However, the reality is that there are still numerous vehicles stolen in New Jersey each day, and we have to continue to work toward reducing these thefts. The easiest way to do this is to remove the key fob, lock the door and make sure the vehicle is not left running, removing the opportunity to steal the vehicle.”
He said in the next few weeks, more social media reminders will be posted by the GRPD.