NJ police reforms move ahead following George Floyd protests
As protests continue in the Garden State and across the nation over the killing of an unarmed black man by police in Minneapolis, New Jersey’s top law enforcement official has given an update on a series of efforts designed to improve police-community relations.
Some of the changes include licensing police officers the way the state does with doctors, teachers and lawyers.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said like so many Americans, he was “reeling from the footage of George Floyd’s murder, and like so many Americans, I am angry.”
He said the message to thousands of New Jerseyans who have been protesting this week is “we hear you, we see you, we respect you, we share your anger and we share your commitment to change.”
Grewal said a sweeping set of policing reforms designed to promote the culture of professionalism, accountability and transparency is moving forward. The policies known as the Excellence in Policing Initiative was first implemented in December.
During his appearance with Gov. Phil Murphy during a news conference on Tuesday, Grewal said New Jersey’s statewide use-of-force database is being expanded from its pilot program to collect data from all police departments starting July 1.
He also said the use-of-force policy is being updated for the first time in 20 years with input from "civil rights leaders, police unions, religious leaders, victims advocates and community members to ensure that our policy reflects the value of New Jersey today.”
He said a statewide licensing program for all Jersey police officers is being developed “because just as we license doctors, nurses, lawyers, hundreds of other professions, we must ensure that all officers meet a baseline level of professionalism.”
An incident response team will be assembled within the Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights that can deploy to any major civil rights incident. Grewal said the team will serve a vital role to “diffuse tension, healing a community after a moment of collective trauma.”
A pilot program will expand the Crisis Intervention Team that brings together law enforcement officers, mental health professionals and other stakeholders to give officers the skills they need to respond to an individual in psychiatric crisis in a way that minimizes the potential for injury.
“There’s only one way to build trust between law enforcement and the community. That’s by working at it day after day, year after year in church basements and school gymnasiums, during good times and bad,” Grewal said.
Murphy said these programs will “promote trust and strengthen the bonds between law enforcement on the one hand and the communities in which they serve on the other.”