WEST ORANGE, NJ — As was promised during the Township Council meeting on June 9, the West Orange Township Council started their process in codifying West Orange Police Department (WOPD) policies against police brutality on Tuesday.
Town Council members voted unanimously to approve two ordinances on their first reading. One repeals Chapter 4, Section 12.2(b) of the Township of West Orange Ordinances on loitering because it is ‘“unconstitutionally vague and is of no use to the township.”’
The second ordinance prohibits the use of less lethal devices, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and requires the use of body worn cameras and dash cams.
“‘Currently the township does not utilize any and all less lethal devices due to the risks associated there within,"’ Council President Michelle Casalino said, explaining the devices' legislative history. She continued that the ordinance was being adopted to memorialize already existing West Orange Police Department (WOPD) policies as "applicable laws" within the township.
"I've never seen a rubber bullet in my life, never mind as a police officer," said WOPD Chief James Abbott. "But I think it's important that the community, especially marginalized groups within the community, hear from the council that this is the way they want it, not from the police chief, but from the governing body."
A resolution noting the township’s intent to support the WOPD in its efforts to remain in compliance with the policies associated with the #8cantwait campaign was tabled because council members wanted to add language banning knee compression—which along with choke holds or strangle holds may lead to positional asphyxia—and to change the resolution into an ordinance so that it can be enforced as a law.
The town council also unanimously voted to pass resolutions to provide fire station 1, 3,4, and 5 with necessary infrastructure improvements and to install generators at fire station 1 and 2.
Another ordinance authorizing the issuance of $3,170,000 in bonds or notes was also unanimously adopted to be used to finance the flood mitigation facilities project of the joint meeting of Essex and Union counties.
During public comment, West Orange resident Khabirah Myers asked about the status of the township’s independent civilian review board (CRB).
Abbott explained that he is current at the mercy of Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II, because if a municipality is interested in having a CRB, the county prosecutor has to “provide training for the people are selected to serve” on the board. He added that the curriculum is probably not ready yet, but that he is committed to creating the CRB and having young people involved.
“It’s just going to take some time,” Abbott said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”