As of March 1, 2019, the Montclair State University Police Department (UPD) will equip its officers with body-worn cameras (BWC). The use of BWCs will benefit members of the campus community and UPD by increasing accountability, transparency and strengthening the trust of those UPD serves. The interest in incorporating BWCs began several years ago, when the equipment initially became available. In spring of 2018, Montclair State University Police Chief Paul Cell determined that the camera and storage technology had matured to the point of being practical, affordable and safeguarded.
Frequently Asked Questions About BWC
A BWC is a forward-facing audio and video capturing system that is attached to the outside, upper body of an officer’s uniform or outermost garment to make video and audio recordings. The camera is mounted to the uniform or outer most garment, in this fashion:
Over the past few years, BWC technology has become an industry standard. Police departments nationwide have incorporated them into their routine patrol protocol, based on significant evidence that they are an asset to public safety. Benefits of police wearing BWCs include:
- Greater transparency and accountability in policing activities
- Deterring criminal activity and uncooperative behavior
- Evidence collection and court testimony in cases of suspected criminal activity
- Record keeping and reporting
Body-worn cameras reflect the Montclair State University Police Department’s commitment to transparency and an open relationship with the campus community. Adding BWCs to the Department’s daily operations will support public safety and enhance confidence in law enforcement by increasing accountability and clarity regarding actions and practices. In addition, victims of crime and arrestees are afforded a more accurate description of events related to incidents with police involvement. Lastly, officers take great pride in their service and will have a clearer picture of events that might be called into question.
Police departments across New Jersey, including some campus agencies, use this technology. All BWC agencies are bound by the New Jersey Attorney General’s guidelines for deployment, release of records and maintenance of recordings.
The Montclair State University Police Department has selected and will fully deploy The Axon “Body 2” body-worn cameras to all of its officers by March 1, 2019. Axon/Taser International is a leader in technology for law enforcement worldwide, and has tailored their product to the unique needs of a campus setting. The department will be using Axon’s cloud-based video management system (VMS) at Evidence.com to manage the videos that have been captured. To learn more about the camera, VMS or their other products, please visit their website at www.axon.com.
On duty, uniformed patrol officers and sergeants will wear BWCs when conducting a law enforcement service or operation that involves contact with the community, however the camera will not be activated to record until and unless the officer is dispatched and the event fits recording protocol.
Police officers will activate their BWC whenever they respond to calls for service or have public contacts initiated pursuant to a law enforcement investigation or investigation of possible criminal activity. The use of BWC is guided by department policy and the New Jersey Attorney General’s guidelines on BWC.
Activities that would require recording include: arrest, search of persons or property, interviews, when using constructive authority or the use of force, civil disorder incidents, transportation and processing of an arrestee, a motor vehicle stop, calls for assistance or conducting a community caretaking check. Interviews of suspects, witnesses or victims are normally performed at an appropriate setting and under separate recording regulations in police headquarters, however if the situation is a threat to the life of a person or the community, it may be captured on the BWC. Such situations will be judged as exigent circumstances with just cause and narrated by the officer.
No, officers will not be recording informal encounters with the campus community.
The camera worn by officers will be clearly visible. If the officer is taking law enforcement action and is wearing a video camera, you can assume he/she has activated the video. You may also ask the officer if his/her video is activated. Dependent on the situation, as governed by the New Jersey Attorney General’s guidelines, the officer may deactivate a camera upon request, however this is limited to the safety of victims, witnesses or undercover law enforcement.
Typically, officers will not record in places where there is an expectation of privacy (such as restrooms, locker rooms and medical patient care areas) unless there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed or the recording of the location is material to an investigation.
There may be situations when officers are permitted to use their discretion about recording events, such as interviewing sexual assault victims, interacting with the public in hospitals when other patients who not related to a police incident could be recorded, at religious functions, in the presence of minors or at the request of a hospital staff member. Officers will narrate any reasons for deactivating a BWC when activated for law enforcement purposes.
According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s guidelines, officers will not surreptitiously record any person or organization with regards to race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability or nationality as a sole purpose of monitoring activity. The officer must be engaged in a law enforcement call for service, a criminal investigation or arrest situation for the camera to be actively recording video and audio.
Officers are not obligated to deactivate BWCs if situations comply with the New Jersey Attorney General’s guidelines. A citizen may request that recording be stopped if they are in a sensitive medical condition, even if police have responded. However, if the situation involves arrest or the use of force, an officer will not terminate recording at a citizen’s request. The officer is required to provide narration as to the decision after the request to deactivate has been made. In many cases, officers have little discretion when it comes to deactivating a BWC, according to legal guidelines.
The courts have long held that an individual should not have expectations of privacy when in a public place. It is also true that if an officer has a legal right to be somewhere — including on private property — he/she is allowed by law to capture video. Citizen privacy concerns guide policies overseeing release of the captured video.
At the end of each shift, officers will upload the data to a cloud-based service, where files are stored. The amount of time the data is saved will depend upon the nature of the video captured. Data will be saved for a minimum of 90 days (for routine calls) or according to the State of New Jersey’s statute of limitations for criminal activity.
Requests for data and recordings must be made in compliance with the Open Public Records Act and approved by the Chief of Police or the Prosecutor. While the records are public, within the confines of the law, efforts are also made to protect the rights of victims, witnesses and the course of a criminal investigation. In some cases, the request may necessitate a court order for release.
Body-worn camera footage shows only what is in the field of the lens and may not provide all the information necessary for a thorough investigation; it therefore does not replace a thorough investigation. Limitations of BWCs footage include:
- The camera does not necessarily reveal all aspects of a scene. There are sometimes events unfolding off camera which are relevant to an officer’s actions and decisions. As such, it’s important to note that the recorded information should be seen as part of the whole incident being documented.
- In low light, the camera may see more clearly than a human being.
- Cameras record two-dimensionally and may make it difficult to judge distances in the footage.
The University purchased 40 BWCs, using University funds.
The Montclair State University Police Department prides itself on timely responses to community concerns. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 973-655-5222 or make an appointment to see a command staff officer for any questions you have. Captain Kieran Barrett has been assigned to work on this project and can be available for any organization or person that wishes to discuss BWCs. He may be reached at email@example.com or 973-655-7440. The Dean of Students Office, Human Resources or the Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life may also be helpful in getting the information you need.