Both chambers of the legislature approved a bill allowing police officers to review body camera footage before drafting reports by wide bipartisan margins over the objections of civil rights groups who feared it would enable bad actors Thursday.
The assembly cleared the bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Newark) and State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), by a 71-1 vote, but the bill returned to the chamber after amendments were made in the Senate.
The new provisions, meant to address activists’ concerns, allowed individuals outside the police involved in a given incident also review body camera footage.
Previous amendments made following committee hearings created exceptions to the new rule that would bar officers from reviewing footage from their body-worn camera in cases where police force led to death or serious injury, where a gun was fired or where a person was killed in police custody.
Incidents subject to complaint by individuals filmed or subject to internal affairs complaints were also barred.
The amended bill passed the Assembly unanimously in a 72-0 vote. Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) abstained. It’s path through the Senate saw greater dissent. Four Democrats, State Sens. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrenceville), Nia Gill (D-Montclair), Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Ronald Rice (D-Newark) voted against the bill, which passed with 34 affirmative votes.
Activists had argued the bill would allow problem officers to conform their initial reports about a given incident to the body camera footage and devalue an officer’s recollection in the report drafting process.
Memory, they argued, was key in witness testimony.