AG: NJ Will License Police Officers, Update Use-Of-Force Policy

The announcements from the New Jersey attorney general come in the wake of days of protests against the death of George Floyd.

TRENTON — As the country still reels from the death of George Floyd, New Jersey announced it will expand and add new policies to improve law-enforcement transparency and accountability, including licensing of police officers.

“Just as we license doctors, nurses, lawyers and other professions, we must ensure that all officers meet a baseline level of professionalism and we must ensure that those who don’t meet this standard can’t work in New Jersey,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily coronavirus news conference.

He also announced the state would expand its use-of-force database, which has so far been limited to six towns.

The database — which allows police departments to report, and state officials to track, use-of-force incidents — will start to be opened to police departments statewide July 1, according to Grewal.

New Jersey also will update its nearly 20-year-old use-of-force policy.

“A lot has changed in policing over the last 20 years and we’ll be working with a wide range of stakeholders, including civil rights leaders, police unions, religious leaders, victims advocates and community members to ensure that our policy reflects the values of New Jersey today,” Grewal said, adding the policy will be informed by the expanded database.

The updated policy will be issued by the end of the year, he said.

New Jersey also will launch a pilot program to expand the state’s crisis intervention team, which brings together law enforcement, mental health and other stakeholders to prepare law enforcement officers to handle situations where someone might be in midst of mental crisis.

“This is best-in-class training and an effective way to reduce use of force,” Grewal said.

The pilot will occur in Paterson, Trenton, Atlantic City and Millville and will be used to study the feasibility of expanding statewide.

Grewal also said New Jersey will build an incident response team within its division on civil rights.

“We will have a team of community relations specialists, similar to the one used by the Justice Department under the Obama administration, who can deploy to local jurisdictions following a local civil rights incident,” he said.

Grewal noted plans for these initiatives were underway “long before” the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests.

Asked about a recent officer-involved shooting on the Garden State Parkway in Bass River, Grewal said he could not comment on ongoing investigations.

“Getting those investigations right means maintaining the integrity of those investigations,” Grewal said. “We have to be able to interview witnesses, track down leads, review evidence, re-interview witnesses ... without any outside interference.”

Authorities previously identified Maurice S. Gordon, 28, of Poughkeepsie, New York, as the man killed by a New Jersey State trooper around 6:30 a.m. on May 23.

The investigation is being conducted by the attorney general’s Integrity Bureau within the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the New Jersey State Police Major Crime Bureau.

Also at Tuesday’s news conference, Murphy announced 708 new positive coronavirus cases for a statewide total of 161,545. He also said announced 51 new deaths bringing the death toll to 11,770.

Burlington County has 4,680 cases and 297 deaths, according to state data.

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