South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race Calls for Reform of Police Practices and an End to Police Abuse of Black Residents

We stand in solidarity with all those who were hurt and traumatized by the experience of being mistreated by the Maplewood Police after the July 5, 2016 fireworks and with those now witnessing this event on the released video.

Racial disparities in police conduct cannot be tolerated here or anywhere. We intend to be a model integrated community that is welcoming not just to people who live here, but also to the people in our neighboring towns who visit and participate in all that we have to offer—parks, public events, and more. The culture among our police officers should be consistent with the culture of the community: inclusive and anti-racist.

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The Maplewood Operational order released by the department on July 22, 2017 regarding the fair and impartial treatment of all people, regardless of their immigration status, is a step in the right direction in creating a welcoming community. As evidenced by the actions of the police in the July 5, 2016 video, however, we see an urgent need for reform and training by an independent, outside party in the area of crowd control tactics, racial profiling, and interactions with persons of color. Further, we call for those directly or indirectly responsible for this unfortunate incident to be held accountable to ensure the troubling behavior at issue is prevented in the future.

We are also concerned that the delay in releasing the video tapes was unwarranted and has eroded trust in the police. We ask that the township committee in the future release information to the whole community in a timely manner to avoid miscommunications. Distrust by the community in general hampers the police department’s ability to do its job well. Moreover, trust in the police in general by people of color is tenuous at best—for historical reasons that have been intensified by recorded incidents of police mistreatment and abuse in communities throughout the nation.

The community has expressed concerns about the Maplewood Police Department’s objectionable interaction with persons of color over the years with little noticeable change. Our elected officials have a duty to demand that our police force be a full participant in this town’s goal to be racially inclusive. That means a police force that is itself diverse; undergoes rigorous, continuous anti-bias training; and reviews its practices and incidents on a regular basis—scrutinizing for possible biased behavior so it can be eliminated.

We look to the town’s elected officials to demand the highest standards of ethical behavior and police professionalism. We urge the township committee and the police department to take immediate and transparent action to address these concerns: to work with us to listen to the constructive feedback offered by residents and community groups; to thoughtfully consider ways to repair the damage done; and to fully commit to becoming a model of fair and unbiased policing.