The Essex County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday that 40 deputies will be outfitted with body cameras to record traffic stops, arrests and encounters with the public in the county, where 40 percent of New Jersey's gun crime happens.
The footage will provide hard evidence of interactions with police, and "if an officer is found to be at fault, he or she will be so charged. If a citizen is found to be involved in criminal activity, he or she will be so charged," Sheriff Armando Fontoura said at a news conference.
The cameras are brand-new for cops on the street in Essex, and it's new for the public, too. Citizens can ask an officer to stop recording them, but if the officer believes criminal activity is taking place, they can turn them down.
Newark residents said body cameras will improve their trust of police at a time when it's badly needed.
"I would feel more comfortable if they're wearing cameras," said Naarida Rushing.
Local clergy also support the initiative.
"We believe this will be something that will improve the community and the relationship with the community," said Bishop James.
The 40 cameras cost $84,000, which come from assets seized by police. The sheriff's office aims to eventually outfit every single one of its deputies to wear a camera, which amounts to about 500 cameras. The department is applying for a federal grant to apply for it.
State officials announced in July they plan to put body cameras on all state troopers who work in the field, making it among the first states with plans to do so.
About 30 law enforcement agencies in New Jersey are using cameras to some degree already or are planning to soon. That number is expected to rise as a result of a 2014 law that requires that police cars have dashboard cameras or officers to have body-mounted cameras. Body cameras cost less and have more versatility.