TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Police reforms aren’t just happening in New York. New Jersey and Connecticut are also tackling it.
“Do you think policing can be reformed?” CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon asked New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“Through better accountability measures, through better transparency, you can have better outcomes. That it is possible to reimagine policing, without… dismantling the entire system altogether,” Grewal said.
As protestors around the country demanded police reform in the wake of George Floyd‘s death, leaders in the Tri-State Area went to work. In the Garden State, the overhaul of a decades-old use-of-force policy was already underway, but George Floyd‘s death created an urgency for more action.
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“This divide that exists between law enforcement and the communities we serve is only going to widen unless we take steps to bridge it,” Grewal said.
In New Jersey, use of force by an officer towards a civilian is now prohibited, unless used as a last resort. The revised policy also mandates all instances of force be available for the public to review on an online portal. Officers will also undergo a mandatory retraining course that focuses on de-escalation.
“The core principle of our new policy is respecting the sanctity of life and the dignity of every person with whom a police officer interacts,” Grewal said.
Legislators in Connecticut have a similar mandate for their new police accountability bill, passed shortly after Floyd’s death. They say reform is not anti-police, but pro public safety.
“We actually can benefit policing and police officers. When there’s more transparency, accountability and community buy-in,” said Conn. House Rep. Steve Stafstrom.
“This is about dealing with the power distribution that exists and making sure that it’s properly checked,” said St. Sen. Gary Winfield.
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Winfield and Stafstrom coauthored the new law. It builds on previous reform bills passed in 2015 and 2019 and creates a statewide watchdog for police misconduct. It also mandates body and dashboard cameras, limits qualified immunity, as well as a department’s ability to withhold officers’ disciplinary records.
“We’re encouraging police departments to use social workers where necessary,” Stafstrom said. “We’re increasing training on de-escalation.”
While some of the changes have been met with backlash, officials in both states say they engaged with the community and various police groups when drafting the new polices. They say while more work is necessary, the changes are a step in the right direction.
They’re encouraging any states that have yet to act on police reform to follow their lead.
Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.