TRENTON, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy closed out his daily COVID-19 press conference on Friday with comments about the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis kept his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes.
"George Floyd should be alive today – not just as a matter of principle or justice, but as a matter of human dignity. Too many times we’ve gotten a national wake-up call and done nothing," he posted on Twitter. "Justice for George means acknowledging our nation’s centuries-old stain of racism."
"We need to dig a deeper well of accountability and responsibility, and we need to draw from it," Murphy said during the press conference. "Not just in Minneapolis but everywhere, including right here." (See full statement below.)
"We can lead this effort, in fact, in New Jersey. We have passed laws to ensure accountability, and I see Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's Excellence in Policing Initiative as how we will stay a leader and a model for smart policies that lead to safer communities, stronger trust and a better future," the governor added.
"As our nation grapples with the tragic death of George Floyd, it’s a good time to review some of the steps we've taken during Gov. Murphy's administration to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the broader NJ community," Gurbir tweeted today.
- We required an independent grand jury investigation every time a civilian dies in police custody. It’s not because we don’t trust cops or local prosecutors. It’s because our system is stronger when everyone has confidence in the process.
- We overhauled the disciplinary process for police departments across the state. The vast majority of officers adhere to the highest ethical standards. But we also must hold individuals accountable when they fall short of their professional obligations.
- We organized hundreds of listening sessions through our “21 County, 21st Century Community Policing Project.” Each quarter, our 21 County Prosecutors have hosted public forums on specific topics, including officer-involved shootings, bias crimes, and juvenile justice.
- We required every police department in NJ to implement an “early warning system,” which helps agencies identify officers who are at risk for harmful behavior and provide them remedial programs before their conduct escalates.
- We’re revamping law enforcement training. We’ve reinvigorated the state’s Police Training Commission to ensure that NJ’s officers are following national best practices on de-escalation and other policing tactics.
- We imposed new statewide rules governing law enforcement interactions with historically marginalized communities, including immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, and victims of sexual assault.
- We re-wrote our state’s standards for investigating bias incidents, ensuring that law enforcement agencies conduct thorough and complete investigations while treating victims in a sensitive and supportive manner.
- We established a first-in-the-nation statewide “officer resiliency program” to help officers cope with the stresses of modern policing. By promoting emotional and psychological resiliency, we’re also promoting safe, healthy interactions with the public.
- We’re building a public database to track use-of-force incidents. As we speak, we’re piloting the program in a number of police departments across NJ and plan to roll out the program statewide later this year.
- We created both a statewide conviction review unit and a statewide cold case network. The premise is simple: those who are innocent should not remain in prison and those who are guilty should not remain on the streets.
- We pushed to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes, as part of our broader effort to ensure that no one spends more time in prison than is necessary to ensure the safety of the community.
"We’re proud of these policies, but we’re even prouder about how we did them: by bringing everyone to the table. Each reform was made in consultation with community leaders, police unions, civil rights groups, and victims’ advocates," Gurbir added. "Systemic change requires systemic buy-in."
Gurbir also highlighted his Excellence in Policing Initiative designed to reinforce and clarify the Garden State’s commitment to excellence in policing.
I want to close with a brief observation about the turmoil we're seeing in Minneapolis. It may seem a half a country away, but we're all in this thing together. There is no doubt that the centuries-old stain of systemic racism is far from being erased from the fabric of this country. We also know that the overwhelming majority of our law enforcement officers believe strongly in the communities they have sworn to protect. But what we are seeing right now in Minneapolis is painful, almost too painful, in fact, to watch. And perhaps that's because it's not the first time we have seen such horrific pictures on our screens.
George Floyd should be alive today, not just as a matter of principle or of justice, but as a matter of human dignity. As a matter of our nation living up to one of our most basic founding ideals, that all are created equal. His life mattered as much as mine, or my wife's or our kids or any of yours. We've seen these images before in New York, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and in countless other cities, large and small. Too many times have we gotten a national wakeup call, and then gone about doing nothing about it. We cannot just expect someone to be fired and that be the end of it. That's a feel-good action that doesn't solve a systemic problem.
We need to dig a deeper well of accountability and responsibility, and we need to draw from it. Not just in Minneapolis but everywhere, including right here. We can lead this effort, in fact, in New Jersey. We have passed laws to ensure accountability, and I see Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's Excellence in Policing Initiative as how we will stay a leader and a model for smart policies that lead to safer communities, stronger trust and a better future. Pat Callahan knows this as much as anyone. As we are coming together to defeat this pandemic, let us endeavor to come together, to strengthen the bonds that bring us together as New Jerseyans and as Americans. Let us be a part of the solution. - Gov. Phil Murphy