AG Grewal: My mission is to restore the public’s trust in police | Opinion

Posted May 23, 2021

We asked four attorneys general — Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and former attorneys general Chris Porrino, Peter Harvey and John Farmer, Jr. — their opinion on how police reform has progressed since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer a year ago.

By Gurbir S. Grewal

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says public trust in law enforcement melted away with each minute a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s prone neck. My job, he says, is to restore community trust in police. Shaded images on the side from top to bottom: Former Attorneys General Chris Porrino, Peter Harvey and John Farmer, Jr.

The source of law enforcement’s legitimacy in America — and the ability to effectively enforce our laws — is a public trust. Trust that government’s coercive power will be wielded fairly and justly.

On May 25, 2020, public trust in law enforcement melted away with each minute a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s prone neck, as millions watched a bystander’s recording in righteous anger.

Though the tragedy of Minneapolis was one episode, what happened that day is also a byproduct of a flawed system — one with severe racial consequences — that is now held up in the national spotlight like never before.

It is my mission, here in New Jersey, to restore community trust in police. Our work began long before Mr. Floyd’s death and has only accelerated in the year since. Here in New Jersey, we are reimagining the profession of policing.

There are four components to our reforms.

First, in December 2020, we implemented the first update to New Jersey’s use-of-force policy in the last 20 years. The new policy bans all forms of physical force, except as a last resort and only after the officer’s attempts to de-escalate the situation. It directs officers to identify signs of mental illness, so they can more appropriately respond to individuals who do not present a threat to others. It prohibits officers from firing weapons at moving vehicles or engaging in high-speed car chases, except under narrowly limited circumstances. And, in a rule that may have saved Mr. Floyd’s life, our policy establishes a “duty to intervene” that requires all officers — regardless of rank, title, or seniority — to intervene if they see an officer use excessive force.

This modernized policy will guide all 38,000 officers across the state of New Jersey and already serves as a model for the country.

Second, we rethought police training to create not warriors, but guardians of our communities. Body-worn camera footage is now used as an educational tool, after both serious incidents and routine encounters, to improve officer performance. We implemented state-of-the-art “early warning systems” that identify at-risk officers and help departments intervene before problems arise. And we are promoting the psychological well-being of officers, to ensure their resiliency in the face of modern challenges.

Third, our reforms demand accountability and transparency. Officers submit detailed information about every use of force in New Jersey within 24 hours of the incident, and we share data with the public about those incidents in an online portal. Every use of force resulting in death or the death of a civilian while in custody is investigated by an independent prosecutor and always presented to a grand jury for a charging decision, with any body-worn camera footage promptly released to the public.

Fourth, we designed protocols to protect vulnerable populations within our communities. We sought to make witnesses and victims feel safe reporting crimes without fear of deportation. We issued rules governing police interactions with LGBTQ+ individuals, to ensure every encounter is handled with dignity and respect. We instituted procedures for “victim-centered” sexual assault investigations, and created mechanisms to divert at-risk juveniles away from formal court proceedings and towards social or familial support. Finally, recognizing that controls must be in place for the risks of a less-than-perfect system, we established one of the country’s first statewide “conviction review units,” to consider claims of actual innocence by incarcerated individuals.

Through these means, we seek to rebuild trust between ordinary citizens and police. We hold listening sessions in each of the 21 counties multiple times a year to hear from the people. I ask all of you to come to share your voice and your experience.

There will always be some who say we have not done enough. I welcome the scrutiny of an engaged public — and indeed, there is much more left to do. I could not be prouder of the brave law enforcement officers across New Jersey who have recognized the need to continue to improve and have constantly sought to be at the pinnacle of the law enforcement profession.

There are many ways to remember those whom we have lost. Here in New Jersey, we honor the memory of Mr. Floyd — and the movement launched by his unnecessary death — by getting to work.

Gurbir S. Grewal has been New Jersey’s Attorney General since 2018.

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

published this page in News and Politics 2021-05-24 02:17:45 -0700