SOCIAL ISSUES

NJ attorney general: I saw murder on tape

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

This was New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s reaction when he saw the killing of George Floyd:

“I saw murder on tape. I saw a law enforcement officer taking the life, a white officer taking the life of a black man. I saw three officers that stood by and did nothing. I was angry, shocked, and I think just troubled and confused like many people,” he said.

Caught on video are the actions of the other officers — two on top of Floyd and another with his hands in his pockets — attempting to block bystanders from recording the encounter.

“I felt like they were complicit. I felt that they had a duty to act. And I felt they tarnished the entire profession by their inaction and that one officer’s action setback, not just everything that we’re trying to accomplish in New Jersey, but across the country as you’ve seen in the wake of protests. I felt that we worked too hard in our state to build trust do do things the right way to let the criminal conduct of four officers in Minneapolis undermine all of that good will that we’ve tried to build here,” Grewal said.

New Jersey’s highest-ranking law enforcer says he understands the outrage and supports the peaceful protests.

To those causing violence and hurting police officers, Grewal said, “I want to be clear, they are criminals and I don’t see them or hear them. But for the peaceful protesters, I share their anger, and I share their frustration and I share their commitment to justice.”

Roughly 21 peaceful gatherings took place across New Jersey Tuesday night, including in Jersey City where protesters and police kneeled for 8 minutes — the length of time a Minneapolis police officer’s knee pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground.

Grewal says for the most part New Jersey has not had the widespread violent outbursts that have been seen in other cities. He credits the Murphy administration initiating uncomfortable conversations about race and policing and says it’s led to trust building.

“I’d like to think that we’ve put some deposits in that reservoir of good will with the community,” he said. “So when we come to a time of tension like this there is that bond of trust, that God forbid if something like that were to happen in this state, that there is trust between the community, the law enforcement officers in that community and our office that we are going to hold folks accountable when they cross that line.”

That good will is relying on the state strengthening policing reforms. Grewal says this month, the Police Training Commission will propose licensing or certifying all 36,000 law enforcement officers in New Jersey.

“As the chair of the PTC, I’ll be voting in favor of that proposal. Because like any other profession, hundreds of other professions — doctors, nurses, lawyers — which are licensed, we need that licensing component for law enforcement as well. If someone has done something to compromise their license, that license needs to be pulled so they can’t move from department to department. And that’s what the PTC has concluded,” Grewal said.

He says in July, New Jersey will monitor and analyze use of force data. It will lead to the first update of the state use of force policy in 20 years in a state that’s seen 80 demonstrations over Floyd’s killing.

Camden County Police say they helped organize a protest.

“Added additional clergy, and different people, and a lot of security to make sure that the people have a chance to speak their voice, exercise their right to speak without interference,” said Capt. Zsakhiem James of the Camden County Police.

The outrage over of Floyd’s killing can be seen in suburban and shore town symbols of solidarity. Across the state, communities in New Jersey are demanding change.