SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - The South Brunswick Police Department has been selected to partake in the “Excellence in Policing” initiative which was started by the New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. This new initiative was designed to enhance public safety and establish trust between the public and the police by committing them to professionalism and transparency, according to a press release from the attorney general's office.
The South Brunswick Police Department was selected, along with five other police departments, to try the state’s new Use-of-Force Portal to better collect data about police actions in the state. According to the letter detailing the new system, this portal will be expanded state wide if proven to be a success. The letter also states that this was the result of a “Complete Overhaul” by multiple New Jersey Law Enforcement Departments such as the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, and the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association to have a more uniform data collecting process across the state.
Part of this new portal includes a new “Use of Force Report” that police are required to fill and submit into an electronic system after any altercation. Over the next year, the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, will evaluate the new data collected by the system to inform any major decisions in policy. The Use of Force Policy in New Jersey has not been updated since 2000, according to the letter from the Attorney General's Office.
“We are piloting this new form and system so that we can get more accurate information about when police use force and under what circumstances so that we can better inform the public about their actions.” Said Gene Rickle, a lieutenant for the South Brunswick Police Department “This reporting system breaks down each event into greater detail and gives us an opportunity to expand about each incident.”
According to the letter, this part of the initiative was called for after media reporting about New Jersey’s data collecting efforts. The Star Ledger published a series of articles about the gaps in New Jersey’s data collection on police force sometime last year. The Star-Ledger, with help from ProPublica and NJ.com, also created the Force Report which compiles information about the use of force from every police department in New Jersey.
The new form contains 10 pages that police are meant to fill out with specific details about the time of day, weather, location of incident, race of police officer and the subject, and what type of force was used. The form used prior to this, provided by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office, is only one page and only sticks to basic details. Rickle claims that the South Brunswick Police department was chosen to try out this new system because of the excellent track record that the department has with transparency.
“We have a very strict definition of what constitutes a use of force in any given situation.” Rickle said “These new categories will help us to track and make sure that there are no improper use of force takes place under our watch.”