Some Newark cops will wear body cameras

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Some police officers in New Jersey's largest city will begin using body cameras next week, one of the first visible outgrowths of a federal monitoring agreement reached last year with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sixty-five of the cameras will be used by officers in the city's South Ward beginning Monday, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said Wednesday. Fifteen patrol cars also will begin using in-vehicle cameras.

Newark's police were put under a five-year federal monitoring program last year after a Department of Justice investigation uncovered a laundry list of problems, including that officers routinely made unconstitutional street stops that unfairly targeted minorities and frequently engaged in the excessive use of force with few consequences.

"We believe it will help us improve the quality of policing in the city," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said at a news conference at Panasonic's North American headquarters. Panasonic is providing the cameras, one of many improvements Newark's police department must make under the Justice Department consent decree.

John Cusick, Panasonic's mobile evidence solutions product manager, said the in-vehicle cameras can be automatically activated when an officer turns on the car's flashing lights or siren, which also activates the body-worn camera.

An officer who is not in his or her vehicle would have to press a button to activate the body-worn camera. To turn off the camera, the button must be pressed and held for three seconds, Cusick said.

Use of the cameras will be expanded to other precincts as more money becomes available, Ambrose said. Newark received a $375,000 matching grant from the Justice Department to help pay for the cameras.

"Newark will be brought into the 21st century of policing," Ambrose said.

The federal monitor's first report on the department's progress under the consent decree was released this week.

It said Newark had a significant amount of work to do but was making strides to create a program to improve relations between police and the neighborhoods they serve.