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May 13, 2014

Re:       A-2280/S-1305, Mandates video recorders on police vehicles

Dear Mayor:

We need your help to prevent the imposition of a new unfunded mandate, which is rapidly moving through the Legislature.

The League of Municipalities opposes A-2280/S-305, companion bills that would require certain new or used municipal police vehicles to be equipped with mobile video recording systems. The bills also provide that a mobile device video recording systems worn or otherwise used by a police officer would qualify, in lieu of a device placed in a vehicle. In addition, the bill increases by $25 the surcharge imposed on persons convicted of driving while intoxicated. The additional surcharge is payable to the municipality where the conviction was obtained to fund the cost of equipping police vehicles with video recording systems, as required by this bill. If the summons is issued by a county’s law enforcement agency or a State law enforcement agency, the additional surcharge will be directed to the entity that issued the summons.

We appreciate the sponsors’ desire to better document the administration of justice, as it relates to traffic stops. And we appreciate the surcharge provisions, which are intended to protect our taxpayers from the costs associated with this new mandate. But the new revenues will most likely, prove insufficient to buy the new technology and maintain the new technology in working order and replace the new technology, as needed. That being the case, the decision as to whether or not to invest in these devices should remain with local elected officials and not become a State mandate.

According to the Fiscal Estimate, prepared earlier by the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) on this bill’s predecessor the, “ … total municipal costs associated with the enactment of this bill will likely be higher than the municipal share of revenue raised by the  increased fee on DUI convictions.”  The bill would, therefore, represent an unconstitutional unfunded mandate, pursuant to Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 5 of New Jersey’s constitution.

Specifically, the OLS Fiscal Estimate noted: “According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, there were 22,150 DUI convictions Statewide in 2012, 23,084 in 2011, and 23,949 in 2010. If the surcharges can be collected, the State, counties, and municipalities would receive an estimated combined increase of $576,525 annually. Under this bill, only municipal police departments would need to purchase cameras for their patrol vehicles and only municipalities that have obtained DUI convictions would receive the increased surcharges.”

OLS further reported that a March, 2012 online article from New Jersey.com reported that the City of Newark spent $336,000 on the installation of video cameras on 52 patrol and traffic cruisers, or an estimated $6,461.53 per vehicle.

If that cost is reflected in future purchases, then additional surcharges imposed and collected at all levels of government would be adequate to equip about 90 vehicles per year. OLS finally noted, “It is unknown what the cost would be for the mobile device video recording systems worn or otherwise used by a police officer.” Maintenance costs are also unknown.

A-2280 was reviewed by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on February 2, and advanced on a 5-3 vote. It was reviewed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Thursday, and advanced, 6-2 with one abstention. It is now positioned for a final vote in the General Assembly.

S-1305 was released by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on March 24 and awaits action in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Please contact your Legislators and ask, respectfully, that the decision regarding the need for this technology be left to the discretion of local elected officials, who will, ultimately, have to find the necessary funding.

If you have any questions on this, please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or jmoran@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

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