NJ Court Rules Dashcam Mandate Unconstitutional

It was found to be an "unfunded mandate."



New Jersey's Council on Local Mandates has ruled that a 2014 law requiring police vehicles to carry dashboard cameras has been ruled unconstitutional, according to Article VIII, section II, paragraph five of the New Jersey constitution prohibits the state government from imposing "unfunded mandates" on local government and sets up the council to adjudicate. reports:

Deptford Township in Gloucester County challenged the law, arguing the $25 surcharge on driving-while-intoxicated offenses did not provide enough money to buy the necessary equipment.

In September, the nine-member board issued a temporary injunction blocking implementation of the law.

In its six-page opinion, the board called described the funding mechanism as "illusory."

The evidence submitted by Deptford, the board said, showed the surcharge "would fall far short of funding the instillation of either a vehicle-mounted or body-worn mobile video recording system."

I suggest a tax on police associations and unions to fund this mandate. Gov. Chris Christie (R), who signed the 2014 bill into law, has sparred with teachers union during his tenure as New Jersey governor but has largely avoided engaging police unions.

h/t Victor M

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  1. Why would he tangle with the people who keep the streets clear for his donut runs?

  2. Fund it with traffic fines. Fund the prosecution of police that turn off or obstruct their dash cams with the same pool of money.

    1. Then the cops would stop… Oh, I get it. Great idea!

  3. Where is the “unfunded mandate” part? All the laws says is that you can’t have police cars if you don’t have dash cams in police cars. Nowhere is the law mandating a police department..

    1. …or cars.

  4. “All arrests must be accompanied by an unedited video and audio recording of the incident.”

    Problem solved. No arrest mandate.

  5. Sturdy, compact, high-resolution cameras are inexpensive and readily obtainable. It should be mandatory, without any exceptions, for all police vehicles to be equipped with such cameras, and for severe punishment to be standard procedure for any gaps in footage. Castigate officers painfully for lapses in compliance with these policies, and you’ll surely see a sharp drop in the number of “malfunctions” and “losses” relating to clips from their cameras.

    This is the 21st century. The United States constitute history’s hyperpower. Our law enforcement agencies, with their nonsensically gargantuan budgets, can afford to purchase and operate dashcams. Mine cost me $60, and it’s powered by my car’s battery through its lighter slot. The video it captures is of excellent quality, and even at considerable distance, license plates and individual features on people’s bodies, as well as signs and markings, are all easily identifiable and examinable.

    This is an odious attempt by law enforcement to make it easier for officers to commit crimes, and anybody who sincerely believes otherwise is delusional.

    1. Powered through the lighter slot????

      So you can only make sex tapes inside of your car?

      1. Until now, none of those hookers knew about the tapes. Thanks a lot.

        Lawsuits in 3, 2, 1 …

      2. So you can only make sex tapes inside of your car?

        Unless you’re in Russia, what else would you use a dashcam for?

        1. On a serious note, Russia has the most fucked up, awful, ludicrous dashcam footage, because driving over there is so awful.

          1. When i was in Russia it quickly became apparent that drivers over there interpret traffic signals completely differently than they do here: green means go, yellow means go fast, red means go fast while honking and yelling.

            1. When I was being driven to school as a kid, cars would literally play chicken with each other.

              If traffic was heavy, people would drive out onto the opposite side of the road into oncoming traffic, accelerate hard, and challenge — no exaggeration — the cars headings towards them in the hopes that those cars would swerve or rush out of the way. There was no Plan B. If either car failed to initiate evasive maneuvers quickly, a combined speed of about 130 miles per hour took care of all their problems instantly. And this was common.

              People jumping their cars into ditches losing at a game of chicken was a daily sight.

              1. The Soviets confiscated all of the Russian peoples’ fucks during the Cold War, and now they have none to give.

                1. I’m so glad my Oma’s family fled Russia before then.

              2. Homey don’t play dat game.

        2. I want a dash cam with a button that automatically saves the last, oh, 30 seconds of footage in the cloud somewhere so I can post it on YouTube with the caption “WTF were they thinking?”

          I’ve seen the worst driving here in LA.

          I was in the right turn lane, preparing to turn right when someone squeeze in between me and the curb (in the space for parking cars) to go straight through the intersection.

          I was in the left lane of a 4 lane road (no turning lane) with my left turn signal on waiting for traffic to clear so I could turn left when the driver behind me started laying on his horn. When I cleared, a pedestrian was in the middle of the driveway I was going to turn into, so I didn’t turn. The guy behind me started honking even more while I waited for the pedestrian. When the driveway was clear, I started to turn and the guy behind me decided it was a good idea to go around me? ON THE LEFT, in the oncoming traffic lane. Idiot nearly clipped my front fender with that maneuver.

          1. What I noticed about LA drivers wasn’t that they were particularly fast, or aggressive… but that they were far and away the most amazingly impatient people I’ve ever encountered. Every traffic light someone would honk the horn. At first I thought they were upset about something in particular, but after a day or so of driving in LA I figured out that people in Los Angeles just routinely honk the horn when the light turns green. Like the instant it turns green, just give a honk or two. You know, just to let everyone know that you were paying attention, I guess.

            I had someone pull that same passing maneuver during rush hour one morning. In a long line of backed up traffic on a two-lane road some guy in a Porsche decided to pass about 30 cars who were all stopped behind traffic. He got about 8-10 cars in front of me, doing about 70 I’d guess, when the lady in the big Volvo station wagon turned left. Right into his left front fender. He bounced across the sidewalk and up through a yard and through a big stone wall. After seeing that he was OK and up walking around, I gave him the polite golf clap as I drove past.

    2. The PD probably can’t afford it because the military doesn’t have spare dash cams to give them!

    3. is it that one sold on the TV ads?

  6. Odd how every cop car these days can afford a modded out engine, even though they rarely would need to chase down a Ferrari. They are equipped with laptops and wireless connectivity, speed guns, and the trunk contains enough gear for one cop to stop an entire riot. But add a camera, something that every smartphone has 2 of these days and suddenly they’re all bean counters.

    1. They don’t have any cash left for cameras because they spend it all buying muscle cars.

  7. There’s a simple fix for this: fund it. What’s the chance the lawmakers wanted the drooling masses to think they were doing something while fully realizing the court would shut it down because it was unfunded? Or am I giving idiot pols too much credit?

    1. Except that… they did fund it. A $25 surcharge per DUI is nothing to sneeze at considering the volume of DUI arrests. Maybe that should go into a central pool so that agencies with high-DUI arrest rates subsidize those with lower to prevent the “unfunded mandate” argument? But they are vastly inflating their projected expenses if they’re calling this “unfunded”.

      Also, as somebody else pointed out, I’m not sure how you can have an “unfunded mandate” for something that isn’t required to begin with (that something being a police department).

      1. To underscore your point, I did a quick google search for police dash camera systems. It looks like you would be hard pressed to spend over $250 on a system. And plenty of really nice stuff is available for less. For less than $400 you can outfit with compact front and rear HD cameras with GPS and DVR.

        Following a couple of links to people who provide systems installed for police, it looks like the actual “police versions” that are used come in at more like $3,000. The look more robust and probably have a nice little markup as well. Still, compared with everything else they fit onto a police vehicle, a couple of grand for a camera system doesn’t sound that difficult. Particularly if you get an extra $25 per DUI added on to your income. If you only pull 1 DUI per week, you have the thing paid off in a couple years.

        And one bogus complaint filed against your department would pay for the thing in legal costs alone, let alone any settlement you might have to pay.

        1. It’s not just the cameras. It’s the infrastructure to store recordings.

          1. Good point. And staff to go with it probably.

            1. Which, of course, presents an opportunity. The state could fund their mandate by providing a mandatory state repository for all such video. The overall costs to the state taxpayers would be much lower due to the economies of scale. At the same time there would be no more mysterious post-hoc malfunctions. Nor would there be any local government dithering over FOI requests….

              Oh.. I see. Yeah, I suppose that’s not gonna happen.

  8. I have a security camera — decent quality with night vision — that cost about $80, price including an SD card that can take about 100 hours of video; a municipal agency buying in bulk will likely get much better deals. It’ll likely last 2-3 years with little to no maintenance. New Jersey has 25K DUI arrests per year and about 10,000 patrol cars.

    How exactly is this unfunded?

  9. lol so the kangaroo courts have bellowed lol, what a joke.

  10. arguing the $25 surcharge on driving-while-intoxicated offenses did not provide enough money to buy the necessary equipment

    Unless the law – not linked – has some specific equipment mandate that requires very odd stuff, I would not think this would be hard.

    Best Buy will sell you an HD dash cam for $69.

    That’s three DUI convictions to pay for it.

    I’m for banning ‘unfunded mandates’, but this one seems adequately funded, given the low up-front cost.

    And easily fixed in the worst case by the State … funding it. The cost would be rounding error in the State’s budget.

    1. Also, I looked up the text of the law, after eventually chasing down horrible links to find the bill number.

      It only applies to newly acquired vehicles after the enactment date; there’s no retrofit mandate.

      It also applies only to vehicles “primarily used for traffic stops”.

      I confirm it only says “As used in this section “mobile video recording system” means a device or system installed or used in a police vehicle or worn or otherwise used by an officer that electronically records visual images depicting activities that take place during a motor vehicle stop or other law enforcement action” and mandates one; no mention of resolution or audio recording.

      The cheapest possible camera would satisfy this law, and it’d be a trivial thing to add to the already extensive “cop package” (a little research shows that it looks like an extra $10k+ for most police cruisers on top of the base “Cop Version” price to add on all the gimcrackery).

      Claims that it’s unaffordable do not pass the laugh test.

  11. If I were a cop,I’d buy my own body camera. Having the solid evidence to prove I didn’t initiate something or violate some jerkwad’s rights would be invaluable,the cost of having to defend against one such complaint would be enough to buy several body cams.

    1. A) violating somebody’s rights or abusing the power granted to you by the state is why a distressing number of cops are cops. From pushing around some “low life” to turning on the sirens to avoid having to wait for a red light to change, violations and abuse occur all the freaking time. Why would a cop want documentation of that?

      B) if they are caught, it is not the cop who pays for it. It is the taxpayer who covers the bills. The unluckiest among them MIGHT get terminated but criminal prosecutions for misconduct are laughably rare; most are giving paid administrative leave

      1. While this is true, I have had a number of conversations with cops who have complaints about the BS that people throw out when they get arrested. A body cam would solve those problems immediately.

        While fully recognizing that the courts currently weigh a police officer’s testimony as being a bit more reliable than video footage, I’d say that having a copy on tape would make their lives easier far more often than it would make it more difficult. But they still don’t want it. Because they all have a story about the one time that they lost their temper during an arrest.

        Which is another reason they should be in favor of mandatory body cams. Having video documentation of the absolute numbers and nature of cops getting out of line would lead to a revision of our procedures and policies on police misconduct. Currently, a cop who gets out of line during an arrest has an overwhelming chance of having it swept under the rug and facing no consequences, but if he does get the weight of the system brought down, his career is over. If we had to deal with them all honestly, perhaps we’d have better ongoing training and people could learn from their mistakes while at the same time we can weed out folks who are just not suited for the job. But nobody wants that, on either side of the issue. So like everything else we do, we compromise with the completely unsatisfactory status quo.

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