New Jersey News

New Grewal, Murphy Order Targets Police, Reforms

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that the New Jersey Police Training Commission (PTC), which establishes statewide law enforcement standards, voted unanimously today in support of two significant policing reform measures: to create a statewide police licensing program, and to overhaul the statewide training programs for law enforcement officers. Attorney General Grewal, who serves as PTC Chair, spoke in favor of both proposals.

In the months ahead, the PTC will develop detailed plans for both reforms. New Jersey remains one of a handful of states that does not license law enforcement officers, and today’s vote is a first step to bring New Jersey’s practices in line with the rest of the country.

“We are committed to making New Jersey a national leader on policing reform, and today’s unanimous vote demonstrates that commitment,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Every day, we are taking another step to promote the culture of transparency, accountability, and professionalism that marks New Jersey’s best police departments.”

Under the licensure proposal, any individual seeking to become a law enforcement officer in New Jersey will need to meet certain uniform professional standards. Officers will be required to maintain these standards in order to maintain their license and continue working as a law enforcement officer in the state.

Similarly, individuals who fall short of these professional standards risk the suspension or revocation of their license, which could temporarily or permanently prevent them from working as officers in a New Jersey law enforcement agency. The suspension/revocation process would make it more difficult for officers with extensive disciplinary problems from moving from police department to police department without accountability.

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The training proposal adopted by the PTC will serve as a framework to supplement and enhance the training law enforcement officers receive, in an effort to increase the delivery of safe and effective police services to the public.PTC Administrator John Cunningham recommended that basic police training courses be reviewed and enhanced, incorporating national best practices in areas such as de-escalation techniques; crisis intervention team training (CIT); interpersonal communication skills; cultural diversity; situational training scenarios; practical interactive exercises during both the academy and field training; defensive tactics training; and a
mandatory field training officer program.

The PTC’s membership is established by statute. The Commission includes representatives of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP); the New Jersey State Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Inc. (PBA); the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM); the New Jersey State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey (CPANJ); the Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey; the Police Academy Directors Association; the New Jersey County Jail Wardens Association; the New Jersey Juvenile Detention Association, and the State Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

The Commission also includes the Attorney General, the Superintendent of State Police, the Commissioner of Education, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, the Commissioner of Corrections, and the Chairman of the State Parole Board. The Attorney General serves as Chair.

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More information on the PTC can be found here: https://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/njptc/commbr.htm.

Building Public Trust

Today’s announcement is the latest step in Attorney General Grewal’s ongoing effort to strengthen trust between law enforcement and community and builds on his December 2019 launch of the Excellence in Policing initiative. Among other recent announcements:

  • On June 2, 2020, Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal announced a new phase of the Excellence in Policing initiative, which included five actions: expansion of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training; further development of the statewide “Use of Force Portal”; plans to update the statewide “Use of Force Policy” for the first time in two decades; the creation of a “Incident Response Team” in the Division on Civil Rights; and public support for the police licensure proposal adopted today.
  • On June 5, 2020, Attorney General Grewal issued guidance prohibiting all New Jersey law enforcement officers from using “chokeholds, carotid artery neck restraints, or similar tactics on any individual, except in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life.”  The guidance further noted that “because these tactics create a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm,” officers who cause a subject’s death or injury while performing them “face potential criminal liability.”
  • On June 12, 2020, Attorney General Grewal provided additional details about plans to revise New Jersey’s “Use of Force Policy,” including plans to host community listening sessions in all 21 counties. In addition, OAG launched a website (nj.gov/oag/force) to collect the public’s comments about proposed revisions to the policy.
  • On June 15, 2020, Attorney General Grewal issued a statewide order requiring New Jersey law enforcement agencies to annually publish a list of officers who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation, with the first list to be published no later than December 31, 2020. In addition, Attorney General Grewal announced that the law enforcement agencies within the Department of Law & Public Safety – the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice, and the Juvenile Justice Commission – will publish historical lists of officers subject to similar disciplinary penalties over the past twenty years.
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