Governor Christie Signs Legislation to Require Police Car Cameras
Last week New Jersey became the newest state to require new patrol cars to be equipped with police car video systems. Officers whose cars do not have in car camera systems must be fitted with a body camera. Many states are pushing for legislation to require police car video systems in the wake of the Ferguson shootings, and according to NPR, over 153,000 people have already signed a petition to make it a national law. The recent shooting of unarmed Michael Brown has acted as the catalyst for this trend that is sweeping the nation, but there have been many other instances in which police car video cameras have proven someone’s innocence. Take, for example, the case that inspired New Jersey Assemblyman Paul Moriarty to sponsor the bill that was just approved. In 2012, Moriarty was arrested for a DWI in Washington Township; however, the report filed by arresting officer Joseph DiBuonaventura differed significantly from the recording that came from his police car video systems. The video footage was used in court to prove that Moriarty had been stopped illegally by DiBuonaventura, and the Assemblyman was acquitted of all charges. DiBuonaventura, as a result, is facing 14 criminal charges. Without the video footage, Moriarty might not have one his case. Arming police with cameras, in either their cars or on their uniforms, has been shown to improve police professionalism. NPR reported that a recent study by Cambridge University on the implementation of cameras among Rialto, CA police officers showed an 89% decrease in complaints by the public against law enforcement officials. While police cameras can help keep officers in check, they also provide evidence that has helped defend policemen in court. Los Angeles has had a long history of public distrust in the police. In the infamous Rodney King trial, King was badly beaten by police after a car chase, sparking outrage against local law enforcement. After this point, much of the public believed that police used unnecessary force in many situations, and even shot at unarmed suspects. In 2011, a cellphone camera caught police officers shooting what seemed like an unarmed man, and the circulation of the video sparked general outrage. However, what the cellphone didn’t catch on tape was that the man was waving a gun at the police officers who shot him. Video footage from one of the officer’s body cameras clearly showed the man with a gun and was used as evidence for their defense in court. During times of controversy, police cameras can provide an unbiased view of what actually took place. As more cases arise in which there are differing accounts of what happened, police car video systems can offer a reliable solution.