SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In the last few days, the Scotch Plains Police Department has received numerous inquiries asking the department to join the #8CantWait project by Campaign Zero. This campaign asks that police departments address, and take action, in eight categories in an effort to decrease police violence. In Scotch Plains, officers are trained to use only the amount of force that is necessary for the given situation.

The eight categories include: 

  1. Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
  2. Require De-Escalation
  3. Require Warning before Shooting
  4. Requires Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting
  5. Duty to Intervene
  6. Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
  7. Require Use of Force Continuum
  8. Require Comprehensive Reporting

Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley outlined the training and procedures for each category the project addresses:

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1. Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds
We are not allowed to use, nor do we train any officers in the use of chokeholds or
strangleholds. The only time that it would be acceptable for an officer to use one of these techniques would be as a last resort. For instance: If they were fighting for their life and or if protecting a person who was having deadly force used against them.
 
2. Require De-Escalation
Every officer is trained to take every step possible to de-escalate a potentially violent situation.

 
3. Require Warning before Shooting
All officers are taught to give warning before shooting during their use of force training as well
as during firearms training. The only time a warning is not required, is if it would put the officer or an innocent bystander in harm’s way by making the announcement.
 
4. Requires Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting
The discharging of a firearm is only to be used as a last resort. Again, it must be a lethal force
situation before an officer fires his or her weapon.
 
5. Duty to Intervene
Every police officer has a duty to intervene if they are witness to any criminal activity taking
place. This is especially important for officers to do if they see a fellow officer engaging in
behavior that could cause physical harm to an individual which would be considered an
excessive use of force.

 
6. Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
Officers are prohibited from shooting at any moving vehicles. The only exception is if have the vehicle is posing a deadly threat to the officer or to an innocent bystander (i.e. the vehicle is heading right for them, and they have nowhere to go to get out of the way).
 
7. Require Use of Force Continuum
There is a use of force continuum that is used to teach every officer in NJ. The levels are:
1. Constructive Authority -- No physical contact; verbal commands and gestures only, etc.
2. Physical Contact -- Guiding a suspect to a vehicle; using hands to put on handcuffs
3. Physical Force -- Wrestling a non-cooperating suspect to the ground, wrist locks, arm locks, etc.
4. Mechanical Force -- The use of baton, chemical agent or canine.
5. Less than Lethal Force -- Firing of bean bags or rubber bullets, etc.
6. Lethal / Deadly Force -- The use of a firearm or any other device that is being intention of  causing death or serious bodily harm.
 
8. Require Comprehensive Reporting
All NJ police officers must fill out a “Use of Force Report” when any of the above uses occur.
 
Because Scotch Plains is an Accredited Agency in NJ, every use of force incident requires the Platoon Commander to review the report, as well as, watch all the body worn camera video footage that is recorded of the incident, for every officer that is in attendance at the event.
 
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office also does an independent comprehensive review of all use of force incidents in Union County.
 
"As we continue to move through these challenging times, I assure you that there will be some changes in the future of policing as to use of force. As Chief of Police, I welcome open and honest dialogue with the public. Please feel free to contact my office to set up time to talk or meet on this or any other concerns regarding the Scotch Plains Police Department," Chief Conley writes. "Together, we can build a community of trust and respect for all."