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Body Cameras, Bias Crimes Top Bergen County Discussion In Wood-Ridge

Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal speaks to police prior to a meeting of clergy and community leaders Friday morning in Wood-Ridge.
Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal speaks to police prior to a meeting of clergy and community leaders Friday morning in Wood-Ridge. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma
The crowd at the Fiesta banquet hall in Wood-Ridge for a community discussion Friday morning.
The crowd at the Fiesta banquet hall in Wood-Ridge for a community discussion Friday morning. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma
New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig addresses the crowd.
New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig addresses the crowd. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. — Bergen County law enforcement and community leaders worked together to sort through difficult issues such as body cameras and bias crimes at a discussion over breakfast Friday in Wood-Ridge.

More than 100 religious leaders from different denominations through the county joined mayors, police chiefs and Bergen officials at the Fiesta banquet hall to maintain an open dialogue.

"We're meeting today because it's the right thing to do," said Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, nothing that police and prosecutors can do their jobs better if they're in touch with the community. "We're here to serve and that should not get lost."

Body cameras aren't a cure-all but have plenty of promise to help police, state Director of Criminal Justice Elie Honig.

New Jersey officials spent $1.5 million on body cameras for state police last year and will continue to add more through 2016. Funds for local departments to add cameras were issued and 13 departments in Bergen County will likely add the equipment in the near future, Grewal said.

Body cameras promote accountability, transparency, good behavior, and confidence in police, he said. They aren't mandatory.

"Here in New Jersey we are at the forefront across the country on body cameras and issues of police transparency," Honig said.

The Rev. Jenny McLellan of Calvary Lutheran Church in Allendale said she was impressed by the presentation.

"It's important to be connected even in the midst of a very busy season for clergy," McLellan said. "I thoguht it was very informative and I look forward to learning more."

As for bias crimes, Grewal said he's learned that it can happen anywhere.

By talking about it Friday, Grewal said he hoped law enforcement and the community can "get out in front of those issues" and prevent them.

Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox called it a great opportunity to bring people together.

"People understand things differently if they're more informed," Fox said. "We try to serve the community well and this is part of [it]."

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