NEWARK, NJ — It has been two years since George Floyd was murdered below the knee of a Minnesota police officer. Now, a New Jersey social justice group is reflecting on the reforms that have been — and haven’t — been made in the Garden State after Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide “racial reckoning” in the summer of 2020.
Following Floyd’s death, cities and towns across New Jersey saw rallies and demonstrations against police brutality, with marchers demanding reform at the local, state and national levels. The protests included a massive but peaceful rally in Newark, supported by the Newark Police Department.
“This moment marked a transformative opportunity to move beyond rhetoric to ensure police are accountable to the communities they serve here in the Garden State and across the country,” the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice said Wednesday. (NJISJ).
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“New Jersey failed to live up to this moment,” the Newark-based group added.
According to the NJISJ, it’s not all bad news — there have been some significant victories in police reform over the past two years. They include three new police directives rolled out at the state level last year, including an update on the shooting of law enforcement officers on the job.
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“None of us can forget the role a young Darnella Frazier played in the recording of the murder of George Floyd, resulting in the conviction of Derek Chauvin – one of many cases where the tapes have led to the accountability of the police,” said the NJISJ, which worked with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the ACLU of New Jersey to draft the directive.
“We were also successful in getting legislation passed to keep police at least 100 feet from polling places during elections, a good law but a sad acknowledgment that due to generations of trauma with law enforcement, black voters may rightly find the police presence intimidating,” the group said.
“Unfortunately, however, New Jersey has let bills languish that would create meaningful police accountability, such as a complete ban on chokeholds and the creation of civilian review boards,” the NJISJ continued.
“If anything, it appears lawmakers are scrambling to avoid real transformation in favor of politically motivated moderation — and have shown little appetite to focus on creating alternatives to the police as well. to create deeper community safety,” the nonprofit charged.
RACIAL JUSTICE IN NJ: BEYOND POLICE BRUTALITY
Policing isn’t the only racial justice issue that needs to see action in New Jersey, according to the NJISJ.
“Whether it’s the recent Buffalo Massacre or the disparate treatment of black and white teenagers in a New Jersey mall, we face daily reminders that white supremacy is alive across America and that ‘it affects not just policing, but every part of life for black people through criminal, economic, environmental and democratic injustice,’ the group said.
Last year, the NJISJ published a report with a list of ways to “make black lives matter in New Jersey” for 2021 and 2022.
Here are some of the longstanding racial issues facing the state, the NJISJ said — and some possible solutions, too.
TRANSFORMING THE YOUTH JUSTICE SYSTEM
Closing youth prisons, investing in children – Close New Jersey’s three youth prisons and invest $100 million to create a secure fund for frontline youth services and programs.
Implementation of a community-based system of care for young people – Pass and sign into law the Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youth and Communities Pilot Program Bill (A4663/S2924) to develop restorative justice centers and enhanced reintegration services for young people released from youth prisons across the country. New Jersey in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis (Signed effective August 11, 2021).
KEEPING COMMUNITIES SAFE
Building a responsible policing culture – Ensure that law enforcement is guided by policies and systems designed to create a culture of accountability that are created and implemented through the engagement of community members by:
- First Amendment Directive to Protect the Rights of Civilians When Interacting with Police (Released by the Attorney General on December 7, 2021)
- Limitation of military-grade equipment available to local law enforcement through the federal 1033 program
- Prohibit and criminalize the use of chokeholds by the police (A1370/S265)
- Ending Qualified Law Enforcement Immunity
- Establishment of Municipal Civil Complaints Commissions (A1515)
- Reduce police enforcement of non-serious offences, especially for youth
Investing in community-based public safety options – Rethink policing by investing in community-based approaches to public safety that will reduce the footprint of law enforcement by:
- Develop mental health first responder and crisis response systems that rely on highly trained professionals other than the police to deal with certain crises
- Reinvest dollars in community services that empower communities, such as schools, hospitals, libraries and parks
- Funding for restorative justice programs and services
ENSURING DEMOCRACY FOR ALL
- Free the vote for incarcerated people – Restore the right to vote for incarcerated people.
- Same-day voter registration – Enact same-day voter registration, including election day (A1966/S247).
- Early Voting – Enacting Full Early Voting Using Electronic Voting Records (A4830/S3203) (Signed March 30, 2021).
- Racial Justice in Redistricting – Ensures that New Jersey’s racial makeup is effectively represented in the redistricting process.
- Right to Jury Duty for Criminal Convicts – Restore the right to serve on a jury for criminal convicts.
- Limited Police Presence at Polling Places – Ensure voters can vote without fear by limiting police presence at polling places except for emergency response (A4655/S2923) (Signed January 18, 2022 ).
REPAIRING THE DAMAGE OF DISINVESTMENT
Producing COVID-19 racial data – Ensure the Department of Health maintains and regularly updates COVID-19 impact data by race, ethnicity and other key demographics at the municipal and county levels (per PL2020, c.28) ( municipal data published and updated in 2021 to ensure compliance).
Establish restorative justice – Create the New Jersey Reparations Task Force (A938/S386).
“From the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, to persistent police violence against black people, to disparities in wealth, health and criminal justice, we are seeing deep-seated cracks of structural racism in our foundation burst into tremors. of land in black communities,” the NJISJ wrote.
“It’s true right here in New Jersey, where black people face some of the worst racial disparities in the country,” the group added.
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