Grewal announces new use of force policy

New rules impose stricter limits, increase oversight

By Nikita BiryukovDecember 21 2020 4:23 pm

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced a set of reforms to the state’s use of force policy, marking the changes to the rules in two decades.

The new policies bar officers from using force against civilians unless they first made attempts to de-escalate the situation.

It bars deadly force — a designation that covers chokeholds and strikes to the head or neck — in all cases except in those when inaction would risk death or serious injury to the officer or others.

“We are building on the important work already underway in the state’s best police departments and establishing a new standard of excellence across the Garden State,” Grewal said. “But today’s changes are about more than just reducing unnecessary use of force by law enforcement. We are also restoring the public’s trust in the work we do — which, in the long run, makes law enforcement more effective and everyone safer.”

It further bars officers from firing at moving vehicles and engaging in high-speed car chases in most cases.

The new rules also mandate officers must intervene if they see an colleague use excessive or illegal force against a civilian and requires officers provide medical care after using force.

“I commend Attorney General Grewal for his leadership during this transformational moment by delivering this first of its kind policy to ensure law enforcement is held to the highest professional standards, particularly for Black and Brown communities who have suffered far too many incidents of improper and excessive force,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Through this comprehensive policy, we are again putting New Jersey at the forefront of the national movement for justice.”

The updated policy requires departments to report use of force incidents and mandates that police chiefs personally review each such incident.

They also restrict the use of police dogs, barring their use against crowds or protestors and persons who are resisting arrest but do not pose a threat to anyone else.

“The preeminent duty of a law enforcement officer is the preservation of life above all else, and that core principle is the foundation of this new policy,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said. “This initiative employs training that promotes mutual respect between police officers and the public, requires the use of deadly force only as a last resort, and was designed to hold New Jersey law enforcement to the highest professional standards in all aspects of policing,”