In what some are calling the nation’s most ambitious police reform, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has announced new rules barring police officers in the state from using physical or deadly force against civilians except as a last resort.
The rules also require officers to intervene if they see another officer going too far, reports NJ.com.
“We’re going to preserve the sanctity of human life, we’re going to preserve the rights and liberties of our residents and we’re going to try to resolve every interaction in a peaceful and respectful manner,” Grewal said in announcing a sweeping overhaul of police practices in the state Monday.
“We’re going to try to de-escalate — that’s a duty we have; and if we have to use force, it’s going to be a last resort that’s reasonable, necessary and proportional.”
“This is a paradigm shift,” Grewal said.
The policy revisions also set rules for officers’ use of less-than-lethal force, vehicular pursuits and chokeholds, will affect about 38,000 officers in about 500 departments.
Few states made concrete and comprehensive changes in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as the politics of doing so are usually difficult, according to The Atlantic .
Grewal, who was appointed in 2017, doesn’t have to worry about persuading recalcitrant legislators or winning reelection. He has more individual power over his state’s police forces than almost any other U.S. official.
“We’re starting with the premise that in every interaction, we’re going to respect the person we’re interacting with, the sanctity of their life, their dignity,” Grewal told the Atlantic. “because if you take away somebody’s dignity, in some cases that’s all they have.”
Two days before George Floyd died, a Black man in New Jersey, Maurice Gordon, also died at the hands of a white law-enforcement officer. Grewal immediately launched an investigation into a state trooper’s fatally shooting Gordon during a traffic stop. Grewal later released dashcam footage of the incident, which showed a hand-to-hand struggle between Gordon and the officer in the moments before his death.
Grewal’s changes are the first major revisions to New Jersey’s use-of-force policy in more than 20 years.
Under the new rules, officers are banned from firing on vehicles in most circumstances, and the policy adds more limits on when the police can chase a suspect by car. The policy includes a requirement that officers intervene when another officer is using excessive force.
To help enforce the new policy, Grewal is also unveiling a first-in-the-nation reporting portal through which agencies must document all uses of force by their officers or risk investigation. A public version of the portal will debut next year.
Collectively, the changes will put New Jersey at the national forefront of police reform, joining Colorado, which in June devise its use-of-force policy, banned choke holds, and expanded use of body cameras.