LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Attorney general to update 20-year-old use of force policy by end of 2020

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

For the first time in two decades, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is revising the use of force policy as part of his “Excellence in Policing” initiative. Grewal discussed some of the revisions under consideration during a virtual listening session.

“As we are dealing a crisis in confidence when it comes to law enforcement, when it comes to our criminal justice system, when it comes to policing. And given our policy hasn’t been revised in 20 years, we believe it’s a good time to have these conversations and community input,” Grewal said.

The virtual discussions provided an opportunity for community input and engagement with law enforcement. Joining him for Wednesday’s session was Jiles Ship, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

“We need to look at our culture of policing today and to make sure that whatever we determine should be the guidelines or policies moving forward. And that it’s also pushed down and implemented in the respected agencies that serve our most vulnerable population of citizens,” Ship said.

Retired Linden Police Chief Jonathan Parham also discussed the importance of re-certifying officers to make sure they use appropriate force depending on the scenario.

“We need to want to increase the amount of training in the academy. We also need to look at some scenario-based training. What circumstances and what instances do officers get involved in force, and is the force that they are using in those instances deployed the best way they could be? More than likely, we are going to push toward them to get a re-certification for basic skills year after year,” said Parham, who serves as the director of countywide police policy, training and training for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

Law enforcement leaders also noted officers need to be able to police each other.

“They are protected from the culture, and everyone is put on notice that if they retaliate or intimidate that they will be dealt with, disciplined and/or terminated immediately. You have to be familiar with people to serve people,” said Quovella Spruill, director of public safety for the Franklin Township Police Department.

Some cities, including Jersey City, are turning to deescalation training to improve officers’ actions during tense encounters. Jersey City invested $1 million in the program. And while the move seemed well intentioned, the city is facing criticism after choosing two firms with all-white staff to lead the training.

“It made no sense. They tried it, we caught them and we stood up for the community,” said Pamela Johnson, founder and executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement. “The decision to use that company, there was no black folks at the table. We have black elected officials who were not consulted. They stated that on the record. They were not consulted.”

NJTV News reached out for a comment from Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop for a comment, but have yet to hear back.

Grewal’s new use of force policy will be available for public comment through Aug. 1. He says he plans to issue a law enforcement directive revising the use of force before the end of 2020.