New AC Police Chief Vows Changes to Improve Community Relations

By Lauren Wanko

It was a day a celebration for Police Chief Henry White as he was sworn in this morning, but also an opportunity for the veteran officer to address the growing number of criticisms of the Atlantic City Police Department regarding excessive force allegations.

“I’m not saying any of the allegations are true, but the perception is we don’t have the trust of the community and they don’t fully trust our internal affairs function so that is priority number one for me,” White said.

That means changes to their canine policy.

“Before a canine is deployed, you have get approval from a sergeant and we think with that process in place that will cut down on the number of canine apprehensions that we’re currently experiencing in AC,” White said.

A 21-year-old Linwood resident is suing Atlantic City and six police officers after he was beaten by the police officers and attacked by a police dog, says his attorney, after leaving a casino in June. The Linwood resident was hospitalized for four days with nerve damage and more than 200 stitches.

The chief says the department invited both state and federal officials who will visit next month to review their internal affairs process. The chief says the department is open to recommendations.

“I think by and large they will be OK with what they find but we’re not perfect. We know we have things to improve on. We’re not against that,” White said.

A new body camera pilot program will launch next month. Officers will wear a camera that records their interactions with the public. If successful, the program will roll out throughout the entire department.

“It basically gives a police officer a say as well. It works both ways so it’s not just the PD especially coming into IA, they make false allegations or inaccurate allegations. So it’s gonna be able to tell the police side and the citizens’ side and you’re gonna get the truth. Video doesn’t lie,” said Deputy Pasquela.

A new early warning software system within internal affairs will roll out in January.

“It will let us know in real time say if one of the officers had too many use of force reports. It will trigger an alert and the supervisors and commanders will have to take certain steps depending on the number of complaints,” White explained.

Will these changes within the police department be enough to gain the trust of this community, trust and respect the new police chief says he’s determined to fight for? Some residents say that remains to be seen.