Policing and Public Safety

By drawing upon lessons learned from effective policing models in New Jersey and across the country, and creating a safe space for honest and difficult discussions between community stakeholders and law enforcement, New Jersey Communities Forward (NJCF) encourages a much-needed paradigm shift in the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that they serve.

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  • We must heed the lessons of Baltimore and Ferguson because, in a very real sense, they are us.
  • With the creation of the City’s first ever Civilian Complaint Review Board and the implementation of a federal consent decree, Newark is poised to serve as a national model for police reform.

Law enforcement can and must join with the communities they are employed to serve — as both peacekeepers AND peacemakers.

Since early 2015, NJCF has hosted public safety forums and facilitated conversations with nearly 1,000 residents across several cities in New Jersey—including Atlantic City, Jersey City, Montclair, Newark, and Trenton. Over 125 residents attended the Institute’s community forum in Newark, which featured presentations from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, United States Attorney Paul Fishman, and former Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.

In a significant development, NJCF led former Acting Attorney General Hoffman to require every state trooper (currently numbering over 1,000) to wear body-worn cameras by the end of 2016. New Jersey is leading the nation on this issue, becoming one of the first states to make this commitment to police reform. In addition, Hoffman issued directives to police agencies statewide addressing procedures and best practices for conducting use-of-force investigations.

Law enforcement must respect and honor the humanity of people they serve. We believe police service must seek first to build community. Law enforcement must also join with the communities they serve to be peacemakers and peacekeepers.

A 2014 report by the Department of Justice on the Newark Police Department revealed:

• Approximately 75% of reports of pedestrian stops by Newark Police Department officers failed to articulate a sufficient legal basis for the stop;
• In more than 20% of the Newark Police Department force incidents reviewed, the use of force appeared unreasonable and unconstitutional; and
• The Newark Police Department has engaged in numerous violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

In addition to changing the relationship between the police and communities statewide through NJCF, the Institute is also deeply involved in reforming law enforcement practices in the city of Newark. From the Newark Rebellion of 1967 to present day, Newark has had a long and storied history of tension between law enforcement and the community.  In response to these issues, the Department of Justice launched a multi-year investigation into the Newark Police Department.  Its 2014 report revealed a number of unconstitutional policies and practices, such as that approximately 75% of all pedestrian stops by the police department failed to articulate a sufficient legal basis for the stop.   As a result of the DOJ report, the City of Newark entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice, which, among other things, appointed a federal monitor to oversee the implementation of numerous reforms of the Newark Police Department over a five-year period.  The appointed federal monitor, Peter Harvey, asked the Institute to serve as a core member of this monitoring team.  Through its work on the Newark Police Department federal monitoring team, the Institute now has the opportunity to help oversee the transformation of the Newark Police Department that residents of the city have been calling for since the 1967 rebellion.

In response to concerns voiced by the community, the Institute has created a new resource outlining ten ways we can transform policing in New Jersey.

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10 Things You Can Do To Reform Law Enforcement in New Jersey
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