TRENTON, NJ - In the wake of days of civil unrest across the nation, Gov. Phil Murphy addressed New Jersey's efforts by law enforcement at collaboration and trust-building with the public while also unveiling a new data point to bolster his decision to move the state farther along its path toward restarting its stalled economy in the wake of COVID-19.
Murphy used his daily media briefing on the state's response to the virus to update and emphasize initiatives aimed at "transforming policing and police culture" in New Jersey "through collaboration with our diverse communities."
The Governor's comments come at time when cities across the country are being challenged to accommodate peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd while maintaining order as those peaceful protests turned violent once the sun went down.
New Jersey has mostly escaped the scenes of chaos and violence that have been playing out daily across the country, although there were clashes with police and arrests made in Atlantic City, Trenton and Asbury Park over last few days.
However, the Governor also noted the many peaceful protests that have been held in cities like Newark and Camden and acknowledged the public's right to voice its opinions. More than 20 protests were scheduled to take place today across the state.
Noting a collective outpouring of grief, the Governor addressed "the pain and fatigue of decades, generations and centuries of inequalities and systemic racism."
"It is pain that has eroded some ties that bind our communities and the men and women whose sworn duty it is to protect them," Murphy said. "While the heart of the issue is not limited to problems in policing I have asked the Attorney General to outline the expanded efforts taken across the state to build upon their existing work to build trust and strengthen the bonds between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve."
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who joined the Governor on the dais, said Floyd's death is a reminder that the nation still has a long way to go to healing racial divides and addressing the systemic and implicit biases that affect all Americans.
"To the thousands of New Jerseyans who assembled peacefully this week, let me be clear: we hear you, we see you, we respect you," Grewal said.
Grewal said he has been helming efforts to improve policing throughout the state even before this most recent crisis. In December, the state launched the "Excellence in Policing" initiative, which he said was a set of reforms designed to promote a culture of professionalism, accountability and transparency for all police departments throughout the state.
He provided several updates and additional facets of the new initiative, including launching a pilot crisis intervention training program in Paterson, Trenton, Atlantic City and Millville. He said it is a collaborative training between law enforcement, mental health professionals and other stakeholders to provide best practices on how to respond to psychiatric crises in a way that minimizes the potential for injury.
He also said he was fully supportive of and will push for a statewide police licensing program to "ensure that all officers meet baseline standards of professionalism and those who cannot meet those standards cannot work in New Jersey."
Other new steps Grewal said are being taken include expanding the state's "Use of Force" database to allow for all local police departments to report and to update the state's "Use of Force" policy that was last updated in 2000.
Yesterday, Murphy announced that New Jersey was prepared to enter a new stage in his "Restart and Recovery" plan. Phase 2 of his multi-stage plan will begin later this month on June 15 when restaurants can offer outdoor dining, non-essential retail stores can allow customers inside at a reduced capacity. Non-contact youth sports can begin on June 22, as well as the reopening of hair salons and barbershops.
In addition to the traditional statistics given to show how the virus is presently waning in the state, the governor showed a new statistic that charts the ability of the virus to reproduce. At its height in mid-March, every infected person was infecting an average of five people. Social distancing measures and wearing of face coverings have today dropped that average to less than one.
"This shows that these measures have worked and will continue to work," Murphy said.
The governor reported 51 new COVID-19 related fatalities for a total of 11,770 statewide and 708 new COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 161,545. Other key metrics like new hospitalizations, cases in the ICU/CCU and number of patients needing ventilators all continue to trend downward.