CLARK, NJ – The internet has been filled with social media postings about police brutality since the death of George Flyod last week.  Clark Police Chief Pedro Matos has been reading them and publicly responded on Tuesday afternoon to those directed at his department and their use of force.

“As I have seen multiple postings on social media platforms alleging the rampant abuse of use of force by the Clark Township Police Department, I would like to take a moment to share with the citizens we serve some insight into the events of 2018 that led our officers to use force,” said Matos in his release via Facebook.

In a phone interview with TAPinto Clark, Matos explained that to understand use of force, one needs to dig a little deeper.  First Matos explained that in its simplest definition, if a person pulls away from an officer while they are taking them into custody and the officer grabs the person to pull them back, that is defined and reported as physical force.

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Additionally, Matos said officers today often find themselves as the first line of assistance to those dealing with mental health issues.   “Mental health falls at the feet of police officers these days, it is something we see quite regularly,”  said Matos.

He added officers are often called to stop people in mental distress from hurting themselves and that often requires restraining an unwilling agitated person.  “In a situation like that if I have five officers on the scene moving in to help a person, it will count as five reports of use of force, one for each officer present.”   He said this type of calculation can falsely inflate the numbers of a department. 

As to why multiple officers would be needed to restrain one person, Matos said it is actually a better move than a one to one ratio. “People may not realize it but it is safer for five officers to restrain one person than it is for one officer to restrain one person.”  

The reasoning he explained is that if you have one officer trying to restrain an unruly person, they have to physically overtake them which can lead to injury for either or both.   When there are multiple officers on a scene restraining one person, it can be done more easily and usually without harm.

In the statement he released, Matos outlined the departments records related to use of force in 2018.  He said Clark Police had interacted with the public 32,929 times and some type of force was used on 13 occasions by one or more officers.

In the statement Matos also provided the demographics of the 13 cases, the state of well-being of each person, details of the incident, type of force used and any resulting injuries.  The complete statement follows.

MORE: Clark Police Chief Matos Speaks Out About the 'Murder' of George Floyd

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Rightfully so, there has been an enormous focus on police use of force over the last several years. Society gives an officer the legal authority to use force; but, officers are expected to use the least amount of force necessary to accomplish a legitimate lawful goal. As I have seen multiple postings on social media platforms alleging the rampant abuse of use of force by the Clark Township Police Department, I would like to take a moment to share with the citizens we serve some insight into the events of 2018 that led our officers to use force. I do not intend for this to be just a watered down statistical version of the data.

In 2018 Clark Police Officers interacted with the public 32,929 times. One or more officers used some type of force on 13 occasions on 13 individuals.

Of the 13 individuals :
-5 were African American
-7 were Caucasian
-1 was Hispanic
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-7 individuals exhibited mental health issues
-3 were intoxicated
-1 was having an unknown medical episode.
-2 incidents occurred while officers were attempting to make an arrest and the individual was not intoxicated and exhibited no mental health issues
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-2 of these 13 incidents originated from a traffic stop
-8 of these incidents resulted in no criminal charges (Meaning the officers only used force to stop some one from hurting themselves)
-5 incidents resulted in criminal charges being filed

In regards to the types of force used:
-On all 13 occasions 1 or more officers used a restraining force or a compliance hold
-During 2 incidents, 1 officer used hand strike(s) or fist strike(s)
-During 3 occasions 1 officer deployed chemical spray

Of these 13 events, only 4 resulted in injuries, all of which were minor. Specifically, 1 person sustained a cut to their wrist and forehead and 3 had to be decontaminated after pepper spray was administered.

In closing, I also would like to point out the use of force is never a routine matter and we take each of these incidents very seriously.

Respectfully,

Pedro Matos
Chief of Police

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