TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey’s new vehicle pursuit policy prohibiting when a police officer can initiate the pursuit of a suspect is coming under fire today.
According to the new guidelines set forth by Attorney General Matt Platkin, “The primary purpose of this policy is to secure a balance between the protection of the lives and safety of the public and police officers, and law enforcement’s duty to enforce the law and apprehend violators. This Policy is intended to guide the circumstances under which officers may engage in vehicular pursuits.”
Platkin says high-speed vehicular pursuits create a substantial risk of injury and fatalities. Over 10% of vehicular pursuits end up in accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities, including to officers, innocent third parties in vehicles. 90% end safely, according to the state’s report and that’s where New Jersey Assemblyman Brian Bergen sees a problem, because well trained police officers are already taking public safety into consideration and weighing the risks of a pursuit on the job, each and every day.
Bergen is blasting the state attorney general’s revised vehicular pursuit policy that went into effect at the end of last year for increasing car theft and hindering law enforcement’s ability to apprehend criminals.
“Criminals are stealing cars to hide their identity as they commit other offenses and now cops can’t pursue a possible stolen vehicle. It’s ridiculous and irresponsible,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “I support our police and demand that the administration start treating them like the professionals they are and stop handcuffing them at every turn.”
The updated policy limits police car chases to the most serious crimes as part of an overhaul of police use of force. Law enforcement are no longer permitted to continue a chase because of the suspect’s speed or evasive driving.
“When is our governor going to start focusing on public safety and put to bed his absurd political agendas? The local chiefs, rank and file police officers, and ultimately the innocent people of New Jersey are the victims of the horrific policy decisions implemented by the attorney general at the direction of the governor,” Bergen continued.
According to news reports, high-end vehicle theft is on the rise. From 2018 through the end of 2021, nearly 900 vehicles have been stolen in Morris County alone.
Bergen says law enforcement officials say when cars are recovered, they are riddled with bullets, burned, or contain other evidence of being used in violent crimes.
Under Platkin’s guidance, police cannot pursue suspects unless they have committed murder, aggravated assault, disarming a cop, kidnapping, luring a child, human trafficking, sexual assault, robbery, arson, burglary, and escape.
Even in those cases, if the suspect is acting in a manner that is posing imminent danger to the public, the officer must call off the pursuit. Platkin says an officer must decide if he is going to chase a suspect before he initiates a traffic stop and that driving away from an officer is no excuse to pursue a suspect.
“When an officer reasonably believes that the violator poses an imminent threat to the safety of the public or other officers. This determination shall be made based upon the violator’s actions or operation of the vehicle prior to the initiation of the attempted motor vehicle stop,” Platkin said. “The violator’s subsequent actions, including speeding or evasive driving during the pursuit itself, although often supporting the criminal charge of Eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b), shall not constitute an authorization to initiate or continue a pursuit.”
“There shall be a strong presumption against the initiation of vehicular pursuits based solely on motor vehicle violations. Both supervisors and officers shall ensure that only in rare cases will a vehicular pursuit be initiated or continued for motor vehicle violations,” Platkin said.
“The new Attorney General Matt Platkin should immediately roll back these politically-motivated and completely nonsensical policies. Time to see if this attorney general is interested in public safety or politics and this is his first test,” Bergen said.
The assemblyman urged Gov. Phil Murphy and the attorney general to shift their focus to supporting law enforcement.
“Need ideas on how to improve policing in New Jersey? I have them. Invest heavily in training our officers, provide resources and let them do their jobs,” Bergen said. “When the few bad apples occasionally expose themselves, throw the book at them, but empower the 99% to protect and serve.”