By Mayor Randy Brown (R-Evesham)
As an elected official I understand the cynicism that many residents harbor towards politicians. In many cases it is warranted and I share their frustration. Chris Rock has a classic skit where he essentially ridicules single fathers who seek credit for doing the most simplistic parental duties. His basic point is that you’re supposed to take care of your kids!
Politicians often make the same public plea for praise when they perform the routine duties they were elected to do in the first place. So it’s understandable that approval ratings for elected officials at all levels of government are at historic lows.
Two of the most fundamental obligations for an elected official are to keep residents safe and find ways to reduce taxes and spending. They are not mutually exclusive but often seem elusive. There is no logical reason why our politicians in Trenton can not get common sense legislation like bail reform, shared services and cameras in police vehicles passed.
Each of those measures would help protect taxpayers – their safety and their wallets. They are common sense initiatives with broad support from both parties and from numerous advocacy groups. Political posturing in Trenton – and D.C. – continuously trumps good public policy and taxpayers bear the burden.
Here in Evesham, as Mayor, I am so proud of our police department for embracing the new technology that exists. Our patrol officers have had cameras in their vehicles for 14 years so we have been out front on this issue and far ahead of what the state legislature is seeking to do. But we’ve gone a step further by recently unveiling “body cameras” to be worn by our officers on their uniform.
Statistics show that body cameras have led to an 88 percent drop in complaints filed against officers, and a 66 percent decline in the use of force by police. That saves money and promotes public safety. It also ensures open, honest and transparent government, which all residents deserve. And it ensures the safety of our brave men and women in uniform, which is paramount.
I believe that police vehicles should absolutely have cameras and support the efforts by our legislature to make this the law, but I also believe the body cameras should be the focus moving forward. Embracing new technology may appear to come at a cost but when you factor in all of the legal fees and associated costs that will be saved because of the cameras it becomes a no-brainer.
That is why my colleagues and I on the Evesham Township Council unanimously approved the request from our police department to equip all 48 of our patrol and traffic officers with this technology.
We are the only police department in the state to outfit all of our members in the patrol and traffic division and were told we have the largest deployment of body cameras in the state.
Furthermore, Evesham is only 1 of 9 municipal police departments in New Jersey to be nationally accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). This ties into the body cameras of protecting the public and members by adhering to best police practices nation-wide.
Many people know that I spend my Sunday’s in the fall as a coach with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Millions and millions of fans love the way our sports have embraced technology to improve safety, remove human error and eliminate the he said, she said that can cause mistakes and doubt. If we are taking those steps in our sports and recreation, then there is no justifiable reason for not doing the same to protect our residents and our police officers.