Since it was first introduced in 2014, the League has expressed concerns with legislation meant to require law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. Specifically, under the provisions of this bill, every State, county, and municipal law enforcement officer would have been required to wear a camera that electronically records audio and video while acting in the performance of his or her official duties. The legislation presumed that the cameras could be funded by forfeiture funds ‘’received by the Attorney General as instrumentalities of crime.’’
We raised our concern about the insufficiency of forfeiture funds to cover municipal costs, first with the sponsors, and then at each step, the bill took through the legislative process. Finally, when it, as S-1163, passed both Houses earlier this year, we brought that concern to the Governor.
In response, on October 19, Governor Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill and sent it back to the legislature with recommended changes. The Governor noted, ‘’…the funding mechanism provided in this legislation is insufficient to support the bill’s mandate. As recently as August 2020, the forfeiture fund account identified in this legislation to fund this endeavor contained less than $2 million, … The Department of Law and Public Safety estimates that initial deployment of nearly 26,000 cameras could cost up to $55.8 million … This estimate includes equipment acquisition, an annual licensing fee, and maintenance and storage. Even after the acquisition, ongoing maintenance and storage costs would be incurred.’’
Therefore, Governor Murphy, ‘’… recommended changes (to) make the mandate to wear body-worn cameras subject to the limit of funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the bill’s purposes.’’
We thank the Governor for his conditional veto. Should the legislature accept those conditions, we will monitor the implementation of the new law to ensure that any required municipal costs will be covered by revenues, other than local property taxes.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x121.