New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is conditionally vetoing two bills expanding the usage of police body cameras in the state — citing cost and privacy concerns.
Murphy wrote Monday in a conditional veto statement that while police body cameras are a “wise public investment,” he couldn’t approve one of the bills, S-1163, which would require cops to wear body cams at all times with few exceptions, unless departments that can’t afford them could be exempt.
“Acquisition, deployment and use of this technology is not without cost, however, which has discouraged some police agencies from embracing this valuable law enforcement tool,” Murphy wrote, adding that more than 35,000 local, county and state officers would be compelled to wear the devices under the legislation.
A survey by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in September found that more than half of law enforcement agencies statewide currently do not use body cameras, Murphy said.
That means if passed as currently configured, the bill would require up to two-thirds of the state’s law enforcement community to be outfitted with the devices — a “laudable goal” that could cost up to $55.8 million, Murphy said.
“Unfortunately, the funding mechanism provided in this legislation is insufficient to support the bill’s mandate,” Murphy wrote while calling for a more reliable funding source, saying state forfeiture funds eyed to pay the endeavor contain less than $2 million — with more than half already earmarked for other programs.
“Even after acquisition, ongoing maintenance and storage costs would be incurred,” Murphy wrote Monday.
Separately, Murphy said he had privacy concerns with Assembly Bill No. 4312, which restricts the use of body cameras in certain circumstances and requires a six-month retention period for footage captured by the devices.
Murphy wants additional restrictions on footage that captures residents other than arrestees who seek medical attention or when a civilian wants to remain anonymous while providing info to law enforcement.
The governor also wants limits set on the use of body cams by officers at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, or places of worship, saying they should only be activated there if an officer is investigating a crime or believes he or she will need to use force.
Murphy said any footage should be retained for a minimum of 180 days, citing delays by potential complainant due to issues like health concerns that could make them unable to file a complaint within the state’s current 90-day retention period.
Lawmakers in the state legislature have overwhelmingly passed both bills, NJ.com reported. They will have to re-approve any changes before the legislation can return to Murphy or can try to override the governor’s vetoes, the outlet reported.
None of the sponsors of S-1163, meanwhile, responded to a request for comment Monday on the proposed changes, NorthJersey.com reported.