The West Orange Police Department will soon be going hi-tech after the township council approved implementing electronic ticketing technology in police cars Tuesday night.
The resolution contracts Gold Type Business Machine, Inc (GTBM) to install and finance cameras, microphones, global positioning systems and e-ticketing software in 10 police cars and license plate readers in two police cars.
The initiative raised concerns and confusion with the public but township officials said the resolution was a much-needed measure to protect both officers and the community at large.
"Motor vehicle stops are among the most dangerous aspect of a policeman's job because you don't know who you're pulling over, you don't know who you are going to encounter," Mayor Robert Parisi told Patch. "To have that video tape record both audio and visually, protects the police officer."
The equipment will be paid over the course of the five year contract through per ticket fees, according to Jack Sayers, business administrator for the township. He said the fees will vary with the number of issued tickets but that the program would eventually pay for itself.
The total cost for the technology equipment is $394,000, a sum that will need to be paid in a five year period. The township will pay GTBM $11.60 for the first 12,500 tickets issued, $6.51 for the next 12,500 and $4.47 for each ticket issued thereafter until the end of the contract. Per ticket fees will be paid to the vendor even if the ticket is dismissed or the person found not guilty.
Some residents, though, were wary the contract set quotas.
"I'm concerned about a system where we push for a quota to pay for the system," said Windale Simpson. He said he was worried the system would encourage officers to "push more (tickets) to be found guilty than not guilty."
Officials were adamant in saying the contract did not establish quotas and still left ticketing at the discretion of the officers. "We're using what's been our average," said Parisi. "We trust that our police officers use their discretion."
Sayers said roughly 12,700 tickets were issued on average each year for the past five years, a number that was used to calculate per ticket fees to GTBM. He said the number was a conservative estimate and only included tickets that were found guilty.
As early as Labor Day, 10 police cars will be equipped with cameras to video record interactions with residents and will have a laptop that can quickly access records, license information and input tickets. Officers will also be wired with a microphone. Two police cars will have license plate readers that have to ability to read license plates and access pertinent information from the vehicle, without the police officer getting out of his patrol car.
Resident Christine Bosco said she felt uncomfortable with the measure and felt it was "taking away some of our privacy."
Officials said the resolution would expedite access to records and data that are already available to the police department.
"With this you do it right from the vehicle and the time to do an average ticket is less," said Police Chief James Abbott. He said the upgrade would not only save officers time but improve overall efficiency.
He said other municipalities and counties such as Bergen and Union have implemented similar technology.
The township council passed the resolution by a 4-1 vote, with councilman Joe Krakoviak voting 'no.' Though he said he was impressed by the technology, Krakoviak told reporters he did not feel comfortable voting 'yes' after he learned during the meeting that there were other possible vendors to consider.
GTBM is a state vendor approved by the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts. Parisi said though the program is not state run, each municipality must obtain approval from the office of the courts to implement the technology.
[Editor's note: To read more about Tuesday's township council meeting click here.]