Video of Atlantic City police officers could soon be readily available - through cameras on the officers themselves. The city is looking into buying police body cameras, which mount somewhere on the officer and record everything that takes place. Atlantic City police have come under increased scrutiny after a lawsuit alleging police brutality included release of a video allegedly showing a 20-year-old Linwood man being beaten and then bitten by a K-9 dog.
His injuries required more than 200 stitches.
The cameras have been discussed since early this year, Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said, pointing out that in-car versions now used by the New Jersey State Police have actually exonerated officers accused of brutality.
"We try to be as open as we can," Jubilee said. "That's always been my focus, that what we're doing is open and honest."
The K-9 Unit would be the first to use the cameras, which Jubilee hopes could be purchased by early next year. Next would be the tactical team, "because they work as a group," he said. They also are charged with patrolling some of the city's most-troubled areas.
The police chief talked about the plan with The Press of Atlantic City during a break in last week's City Council meeting, when several people charged they had been mistreated by city officers.
In-car cameras used by the State Police have helped to exonerate officers of many allegations, Jubilee said. The cameras not only provide evidence, but also increase watch over the officers.
"Not that I think the officers need to be watched, but it takes the responsibility to the citizens to a different level," he said. "It presents the public with an added level of confidence."
Cameras run from $250 to about $600, depending on the type and what they do, he said. Some are self-contained, while others work off a wireless network. They can mount on the breast pocket, a button or even on eyeglasses, depending on type.
The Los Angeles Police Department recently began a move to have their cameras privately funded. They have surpassed their goal of $1.2 million, with donations that included a quarter-million from the Dodgers, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
The West Coast department is testing different cameras, Jubilee said. But, under New Jersey's purchasing laws, that is not an option here.
Instead, "we're going to get as much technical information as we can," he said.
The department's Support Services Division is in charge of putting together and analyzing that information.
Jubilee expects to have enough information within the next couple of weeks, but cautioned that funding would probably mean nothing can be purchased until next year.
After the first units try the cameras, they would evaluate how they work and decide how to move forward with either the same cameras or a different system, Jubilee said.
The plan comes at a time when the department is going to upgrade its antiquated records management system and computer-assisted dispatch with a $3.5 million grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. City Council approved a contract with TSG Solutions to lead the technology project, but the contract has not yet been signed.
"I want us to be on the cutting edge," Jubilee said, "so that the public knows we're concerned with what's happening and we're concerned with their complaints."
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