MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The following letter to the community from Maplewood Chief of Police Jim DeVaul has been submitted for publication. Chief DeVaul not only address the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, but continues on to address past issues in Maplewood and the current goals and objectives to address and correct the past issues. They are in effect and the department has changed since DeVaul was appointed chief. His statement follows:
To Our Maplewood Community
As Chief of the Maplewood Police, I would like to address the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hand of Police Officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Firstly, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the entire Floyd family for their tragic loss. I am personally outraged at this senseless loss of life. This man died as result of an accusation that he passed a counterfeit $20.00 bill. I am having trouble grasping the reality of this situation. If $20.00 is the value of a human life, then nobody is safe. George Floyd was treated without regard for humanity. There are no excuses for what happened to Mr. Floyd. He was handcuffed, held down by multiple officers, one of which had their knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and made him suffer as he gasped for air and pleaded for help. These officers must be held responsible for their actions including those who just stood by and did not help Mr. Floyd.
In full transparency, I must acknowledge this Police Department has dealt with complaints of excessive force and misconduct in the past. I recognized that this history would change the relationship between Police and the community for many years to come. As the new Police Chief, I assembled a team of qualified diverse officers to help change the culture in the Police Department. There was no room for excuses or denial. We have learned a great many things along the way and that the officers would not accept change easily. Rebuilding trust and relationships in the community could not be set on a timetable and would have to be earned.
The Department established goals and objectives as part of this change in culture.
- Be a completely open and transparent Department.
- Adopt a “Community Oriented Policing” model putting residents first.
- Create a Community Services Bureau in support of this model of Policing.
- Treat all persons with dignity and respect.
- Support the creation of a Community Board on Police
- Collaborate with the Community Board on Police to make the vital necessary changes to achieve our goals.
- Making Body Cameras standard issued equipment
- Requiring Making Body Cameras be used on all calls with very few exceptions.
- Supervisors Conduct random reviews of body camera video for compliance.
- Hold our officers and supervisors to a much higher standard.
- Not to overlook small violations as they only lead to larger problems.
- Increase officer training and establish expectations as one method of reducing discipline and internal affairs complaints.
- Implement a Juvenile Restorative Justice Initiative as part of Stationhouse Adjustments
- Recruitment candidates of color from the community to reflect our community.
- Conduct de-escalation and peer to peer training annually at a minimum.
Why do these types of tragedies continue to happen?
Simply, it is a lack of vision, accountability and follow up. Change in department policy must be real and not just politics. And it must be accompanied with a comprehensive plan.
Law Enforcement Executives can expect that there will be limited or no help from outside agencies.
First there must be acknowledgement that change is necessary.
The department must commit to change as we stand shoulder and shoulder with our community.
The Law Enforcement Executive should prepare a plan to the Appropriate Authority for review.
A plan with goals, objectives, timelines, accountability requirements and ways to measure the effectiveness of not only the plan but its implementation. The plan must be publicly available for the entire community to read. It is crucial for the Law Enforcement Executive and the entire Command Staff to know all aspects of the plan. They will have to deliver a unified message to all personnel on how they can take personal ownership in their part of the plan. The plan must include reporting from the Law Enforcement Executive to be effective. There must be a performance evaluation mechanism for the Law Enforcement Executive as well.
To enact change and provide true justice, employment laws need to be changed or strengthened to make it easier to terminate officers before a tragedy occurs.
The public is outraged and rightfully so because they don’t trust or believe that anything will change.
Hold people accountable! Be accountable!
Don’t defend or make excuses for bad officers!
Don’t ignore what is right in front of you!
Don’t let this happens in your community!
Take a stand for what is best for our community!