BRIDGETON — The state Attorney General’s and Cumberland County Prosecutor’s offices will host a Community Listening Session on Wednesday focusing on police use of force.
“Use of force is a sober responsibility solely given to law enforcement to protect both the public and themselves when necessary. Everyone loses when force is used inappropriately,” Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said. “We are looking forward to hearing what the public thinks should be done to make oversight in this area robust and comprehensive.”
The session, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Union Baptist Temple, 30 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, will touch on the attorney general’s Use of Force Project, according to a news release from the Prosecutor’s Office.
The project comes after NJ Advance Media on Nov. 29 published “The Force Report,” a database that ranks every police department in the state by the number of times they used force, including compliance holds, takedowns, hands/fists, leg or baton strikes, pepper spray and fired a weapon from 2012 to 2016.
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The outlet found that the forms, which officers are mandated to fill out after every instance of force, are “rarely closely examined” and that “the central system that would flag potentially dangerous cops for review was never created.”
In response to the report, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, in a Dec. 5 news release, cautioned the public and reporters from relying on New Jersey Advance Media’s database.
Due to the lack of uniform data collection methods in the state, NJAM’s data “may be inaccurate in some cases and may cause those relying on the data to draw incorrect conclusions about the state of law enforcement in New Jersey,” Grewal said.
However, he added that “our statewide data collection system requires a complete overhaul.”
Grewal announced his intentions to standardize the recording of use-of-force incidents, identify ways to contextualize incidents with accurate information about the officer’s actions and partner with academic institutions to help analyze the data.
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The Bridgeton session will also address the Attorney General’s Independent Prosecutor Directive, which mandates independent investigations of officer-involved shootings, as well as police training programs related to cultural diversity and implicit bias.
Grewal and Webb-McRae will be joined by Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice; Thomas Eicher, director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability; the Rev. Dr. Albert Morgan, pastor of Union Baptist Temple; and additional law-enforcement and community leaders.