LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

NJ launches campaign to reduce conflict during traffic stops

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Former All-Pro linebacker Jessie Armstead made a video for the New Jersey Attorney General’s new ad campaign which was unveiled on Wednesday. It’s designed to teach motorists what to do when they see the flashing lights in their rear view mirror. Armstead recalls getting pulled over and watching the officer approach.

“You know, your heart starts beating, no matter who you are,” said Armstead. “You realize, ‘Oh! I do have my windows tinted! I’m going to let down all my windows!’ And realize that I need to put my hands on the steering wheel, just to make sure, because I’m thinking the same way he’s thinking: I don’t want to make a wrong move. I don’t want him to make a wrong move.”

Attorney General Chris Porrino said polls show police and citizens — particularly minorities — mistrust each other. Fleeing African-American motorist Walter Scott was shot two years ago by a white North Charleston police officer, after a traffic stop. Porrino referenced that case, and said he’s viewed police dash cam videos of traffic stops in New Jersey.

“I will tell you that these encounters, they turn violent in a second. An encounter that would otherwise be routine, because of what may be an understanding, in a second, becomes dangerous, both for the civilian and for law enforcement. And we know that in the best of circumstances, when tensions are high and when there’s mistrust, the likelihood for things to go wrong goes up,” said Porrino.

The result: Safe Stop NJ. It features several ads starring sports stars like Armstead and Shaquille O’Neal. Some New Jersey officers, including Montclair Det. Kim Nelson Edwards, also recorded tip videos.

“If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, please do it. Again, that’s the law,” Nelson Edwards says in one PSA.

“This is what you should be doing. This is what the officer should be doing. And if doesn’t happen that way, there is recourse,” said Nelson Edwards.

It’s recourse in the form of filing a complaint about the officer. And if you don’t get results, call the new hotline: 833-4-SAFE-NJ. The Attorney General’s Office will contact that police department and get answers within 30 days. Porrino also solicited endorsements from celebrities and sports stars.

“… Who want to do something other than just talk about whether people should stand or kneel or stay in the locker room and want to do something concrete and meaningful — we ask them to raise their hand and we will come and take care of all the arrangements and shoot a 30-second video,” Porrino said.

The complaint hotline is up and running. The new ad campaign kicks off this weekend. It’s paid for by $1 million in criminal forfeiture funds.