CAMDEN, NJ — Outgoing Camden County Police Chief Joe Wysocki, who will retire at the end of this year, extolled a series of policies put forth by Attorney's General Gurbir Grewal on Monday to better tackle use of force by 38,000 law enforcement officers throughout the state.
The Camden County Police Department (CCPD), an early adopter of this type of approach to community policing, gained national attention earlier this year for their work in building relationships locally to better serve residents.
“The Camden County Police Department seeks to establish policy and practices that are progressive in nature and representative of a contemporary policing culture,” Wysocki said. “We fully support the implementation of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Use of Force Policy, which promotes and codifies modern-day law enforcement ethos and ideals, anchored in the sanctity of human life.”
The policies (broken down below) represents the first overhaul to Grewal's “Use of Force Policy” in 20 years.
“We are committed to making New Jersey a national leader in policing reform, and today’s actions deliver on that promise,” said Grewal in a statement. “We are building on the important work already underway in the state’s best police departments and establishing a new standard of excellence across the Garden State. But today’s changes are about more than just reducing unnecessary use of force by law enforcement. We are also restoring the public’s trust in the work we do—which, in the long run, makes law enforcement more effective and everyone safer.”
Among the changes will be to strictly forbid deadly force against civilians “including chokeholds and strikes to the head or neck” unless used as a last result when the actions will protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious injury.
Such force was used in the killing of George Floyd earlier this year – a tragedy that sparked protests around the world including Camden.
If an officer is engaging in illegal or excessive force against a civilian, the revised policy states, officers of any rank or title will have a “duty to intervene.”
“Today is another major step toward addressing the gap in trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve — drawing on the best practices of police departments across the nation and the urgent priorities of reform advocates to implement a uniform use of force policy for every officer in New Jersey,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “
Other use of force revisions will include (courtesy of Grewal's office):
- Prohibits all forms of physical force against a civilian, except as a last resort and only after the officer attempts to de-escalate the situation and provides the civilian with an opportunity to comply with the officer’s instructions;
- Prohibits all forms of deadly force against a civilian – including chokeholds and strikes to the head or neck – except as an absolute last resort when the officer reasonably believes that such action is immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person from imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
- Prohibits officers from firing weapons at a moving vehicle or engaging in a high-speed car chase, except under narrowly limited circumstances;
- Provides new guidance on the use of less-lethal force as an alternative to deadly force and as a tool for de-escalation;
- Establishes an affirmative “duty to intervene” that requires all officers – regardless of rank, title, or seniority – to intercede if they observe another officer engage in illegal or excessive force against a civilian; and
- Establishes an affirmative “duty to provide medical assistance” that requires officers to request – and, where appropriate, personally provide – medical assistance after any use of force against a civilian.
To ensure the policies will be complied with the following will also take effect (courtesy of Grewal's office):
- All 38,000 state, county, and local law enforcement officers in New Jersey must complete an immersive, two-day training program on de-escalation and other tactics for limiting the use of force. This unique training program will incorporate two proven and respected training programs: ICAT—Integrated Communication and Tactics training developed by the Police Executive Research Forum, and ABLE—Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement developed by Georgetown University and others. All officers must complete the training no later than December 31, 2021;
- Within 24 hours of using any physical force against a civilian, the law enforcement officer must report detailed information about the incident to the statewide Use of Force Portal, a new electronic reporting system implemented with Benchmark Analytics, part of the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy. A version of the portal will be accessible for public review in the first quarter of 2021;
- Supervisory officers, including police chiefs, are now required to review all uses of force by their subordinate officers, both to determine whether a particular use of force was proper and to identify systemic issues that may require retraining or other remedial measures; and
- Every New Jersey law enforcement agency – including the New Jersey State Police, the 21 County Sheriff’s Offices, and more than 500 local police departments – must conduct an annual analysis of use-of-force incidents to identify trends, including any racial disparities, and submit the analysis to the County Prosecutor for review.