New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) earned the title of having vetoed the most bills in the state’s modern history, after nixing a final 44 bills this week, including a bill that would have required some police cars to be equipped with dashboard cameras. Christie killed the bill through what is known as a “pocket veto” and let it expire without ever having to explain his reasoning.
The bill was intended to reduce the risk of false prosecution, after a New Jersey state legislator, Assemblymen Paul Moriarty (D), was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. Had it not been for a dashboard camera showing that he had not cut off an officer, as the officer had claimed, and passed the sobriety test without a problem, Moriarty could have faced serious charges that he said would have threatened his political career.
“Having a visual record of a traffic stop provides the best evidence for police to use in court,” said Moriarty, who was the primary sponsor of the bill. “The video doesn’t lie. It doesn’t forget what is said. It is impartial and may, in fact, help reduce protracted court cases and litigation.”
Cameras at police scenes don’t just capture police misconduct and hold them accountable; they have also been associated with drastic changes in police behavior. One recent study on body-worn cameras found that wearing a camera resulted in a “more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions” and a nearly 90 percent cut in complaints from citizens.
The legislation would have only applied to patrol vehicles and would have been funded through a $25 surcharge on drunk driving convictions. The bill received full legislative approval on January 13 by a vote of 54-17 with bipartisan support.
“It’s even more upsetting that the governor chose not to explain his reasoning behind not signing this bill designed to protect New Jerseyans and police officers alike,” Moriarty said. Christie’s office didn’t return a call to ThinkProgress to explain why he vetoed it.