New Jersey attorney general overhauls police use-of-force rules

TRENTON, New Jersey — New Jersey’s top law enforcement official on Monday unveiled new guidelines governing the use of force for the state’s nearly 40,000 police officers, saying the changes would help restore public trust and make the state “a national leader in policing reform.”

The new policy, which had been promised in the wake of widespread protests against police brutality, sets up a framework for police interactions with civilians, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

Among the new policies are a prohibition against any use of physical force against a civilian except as a last report and only after attempts at de-escalation; a bar on deadly force against civilians, including chokeholds and strikes to the head and neck, except as a last report; and a halt on firing at moving vehicles or during high-speed chases, except in narrow instances.

The guidelines also require New Jersey’s 38,000 officers to undergo a two-day training on de-escalation and other tactics aimed at limiting the use of force.

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Among the other new items is a requirement that any use of physical force against a civilian be followed up within 24 hours with a report explaining what happened in a statewide Use of Force Portal. A version of the portal will be accessible for the public to review in the first quarter of next year.

The new policy also requires all New Jersey law enforcement agencies, including the State Police, the 21 county sheriff’s offices, and more than 500 local police departments, to conduct an annual analysis of incidents involving force to identify trends.

The policy earned praise from across the spectrum. Police union officials said the policy was developed through collaboration with officers and it would protect them while on the job.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the guidelines will protect the public’s rights while creating accountability.

Richard Smith, the head of the New Jersey NAACP, called it a step toward establishing police accountability.

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“We support the guiding principle that officers must make every effort to preserve and protect human life and the safety of all persons and never deploy force in a discriminatory manner,” Smith said in a statement.

The new guidelines come over six months after Grewal promised to overhaul the guidelines, citing the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked a global reaction to police violence.

It is the first time the use-of-force guidelines have been overhauled since 2000, Grewal said.

Copyright © 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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