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Body cameras have their advantages in the safe city setting, but their contribution to security sometimes raises privacy dilemmas. Jersey City police are giving body cams a second try after a first attempt three years ago failed.
When Jersey City police Officer Ameer Alateek prepares to go on foot patrol, which now includes a body camera in a cellphone, the cams will always be in action. “Anytime I have a community interaction, the camera will be in use,” Alateek said.
The device is set to a mode that only allows it to function as a cop camera. The officer turns the camera on and the recorded footage streams directly to a secure server at the Police Department. “When we started exploring body cameras Google mentioned that they may have a solution. Would we be open to it? And we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take a look,’” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told newyork.cbslocal.com.
Fulop added that the new system offers more data storage options than traditional body cams, which also helps lower the system’s price by millions of dollars. “I think Jersey is a great place to try innovative solutions. It’s big enough that you can actually see what happens and try different things, and it’s small enough that if it doesn’t work, you can adopt different solutions and change and adapt,” the mayor explained.
Jersey City plans to roll out the cellphone cameras to all of its 932 officers in the fall. However, as officer Alateek who helped test them admitted, not all residents liked being recorded. “There are situations where there’s service to calls and, and when we come in and we have the cameras on, they kind of get camera-shy and they don’t want to deal with us,” he said.
But Mayor Fulop said it is time to get used to it. He foresees a day when those phone cams might be worn by every New Jersey government employee who deals with the public.
“The quality of the service from our employees are going to be top-notch,” Fulop said, “and I think that if anything slips, there’s going to be a chance to review that and correct it.”
American Civil Liberties Union privacy advocate Jay Stanley said that maybe taking things a bit too far. “Last time I checked, there hasn’t been any housing inspectors that have shot unarmed black men,” Stanley said. “There’s no reason to have the privacy problems that come with these cameras for government employees that don’t have that power that police officers have to shoot and kill”.