Rowan University police launch body worn cameras program

Rowan University police launch body worn cameras program

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Police officers in Rowan University’s Department of Public Safety are the first officers at a New Jersey college or university to use body worn cameras.

The body worn camera program, which is in response to legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie last fall requiring police officers in the state to use dashboard cameras on police vehicles, was launched on Monday, April 13.

The legislation signed by the governor last September states that body cameras can be used in lieu of dashboard cameras. Given that—and given pending statewide legislation that may require body cameras on officers in the future—Rowan’s public safety leaders decided to institute the body camera program for its 34 first-responding officers, according to Reed Layton, senior director of public safety.

“The cameras are for the protection of citizens, as well as for officers. This is an important step for us and will enhance a lot of confidence in public safety throughout our community,” says Layton.

The cameras are placed in the center of the chest of all public safety officers. When an officer finishes a shift, the footage is downloaded at a docking station at the police station via a secure site used by the federal government, according to Layton.

If an arrest is made or charges have been brought, the footage is dropped into evidence for court proceedings. Otherwise, footage is destroyed after 90 days, according to the University policy.

All Rowan officers have been trained on the body cameras and the department’s leadership has met with campus student groups to explain the new program. Under University policy, when an officer responds to a call to an area of privacy—entering a residence hall room, for instance--they are required to notify the public that they are wearing a camera.

While Rowan is the first New Jersey college or university to institute body cameras, local municipalities already have done so. The Evesham Township Police Department was the first in New Jersey to begin using the cameras, while the Paulsboro Police Department was the first in Gloucester County, according to Layton. Two weeks ago, the Glassboro Police Department began using the cameras, Layton adds.

“There’s more accountability of the officer with a camera on,” says Layton, adding that Rowan’s police leadership researched the program for more than a year, meeting with Evesham officers and command staff. “Police officers are very pro-camera.

Given possible future legislation, deciding to go with body cameras for the department made the most sense, says Layton, noting that the body camera program is a five-year, $95,000 investment for the department.

“A car camera locks you into the car and there are movements you can’t always see from a dashboard camera,” Layton says. “For the long term, body worn cameras were the best solution for our department and for the safety of our community members.”

Rowan students have been supportive of the use of the body cameras, according to Layton.

“We’ve had very positive response from students,” says Layton. “They realize the cameras protect them as well as our officers.”

In 2011, Rowan’s Department of Public Safety became the first law enforcement agency in a New Jersey college or university—and the first agency in Gloucester County—to attain full national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Accreditation from CALEA is a highly prized recognition of law enforcement excellence. The accreditation means that the department is held to the same standards as the finest law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Rowan’s department was reaccredited by CALEA in 2014.

Last year, the department responded to more than 26,000 calls for service.