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For Immediate Release

January 27, 2023

Contact: Richelle Terese

Trenton, NJ----This evening, the horrifying body camera footage of the violent attack of Tyre Nichols by Memphis, TN police officers was released to the public. While no longer shocking, witnessing the brutal and callous way in which so many Black lives are snuffed out by members of law enforcement continues to be both jarring and incensing. This video is evidence that as a nation, we refuse to learn the lessons, and that refusal trickles down to every state, every municipality, and every neighborhood. The issue of police violence is not, nor has it ever been a case of a few bad apples. The culture of police violence and misconduct is endemic in our society, and we do not… CANNOT… meaningfully redress this issue with calls for more police or increased police spending in our state’s budget.

While there have been some positive gains, New Jersey still exists as one of the most inequitable states in the nation, and Black residents are disproportionately subjected to police use of force at alarming rates. Statewide, Black residents are three times more likely to face police force than white residents. Depending on where you are in the state that likelihood increases exponentially. Data shows that in Lakewood, a Black person is 22 times more likely to face police force than their white counterparts.

Despite its efforts, the state continues to fall short at rooting out the issue of police brutality and racial inequality. In the wake of George Floyd, there were increased investments in police training, body camera equipment, and the establishment of use of force reporting requirements. Those efforts have yielded shameful policing bills that allow officers to view body camera footage prior to writing their reports; a reporting system so flawed and ineffective that at least 62 times officers accidentally marked themselves as dead which is indicative of the absences of care or attention to the process; and a recent report from the New Jersey Comptroller’s office stating that despite mandates by the US Justice Department, New Jersey State Police continues to demonstrate “weaknesses” in its oversight and implementation of training programs and policies including disciplinary issues from its trainers along with considerable deviations from the training curriculum.

Tyre Nichols, 29 years old, standing 6”3 and weighing 150 lbs. was but a mere 100 yards from the safety and security of his mother’s home, where 5 Black Memphis officers (whose collective body weight totaled at least 1000 lbs.) brutally kicked, beat and struck Mr. Nichols leaving him in critical condition before ultimately succumbing to his injuries. This evokes two important points regarding policing.

First, the evidence is clear that nationwide, Black communities (in contrast to many white communities) live in legitimate fear of experiencing harm by the police. Those fears are substantiated by the fact that Black people are killed by police at significantly higher rates than any other racial group nationwide. The solution to this problem does not exist in increased spending for training or calling for ethnic diversity in police agencies. The best solution to this problem rests in community-led alternative response teams FREE from police involvement or interference. Increasingly, throughout the nation we are witnessing the rise of community-led response teams as an alternative to police responses for nonviolent, substance use, behavioral and mental health calls. Community response teams rely heavily on highly trained professionals other than police and have been proven to be an incredibly effective tool in violence interruption as well as limiting unnecessary and harmful interactions between police and communities of color. There is simply no need for the police to be involved in nonviolent interactions with Black people… PERIOD. We at Salvation and Social Justice are calling for significant investments in community-led response pilot programs throughout the state.

Secondly, although Tennessee has a police certification system established in the state, it was not enough to prevent the actions of those 5 officers that night nor the inaction of the many other officers and first responders who were present at some point throughout Mr. Nichols' ordeal and failed to intervene or render aide. Like Tennessee, New Jersey recently established a police licensure system, but it alone will not be enough to hold bad actors accountable. That is why we are urging the legislature to codify the Attorney General’s Use of Force Directive. In December of 2020, then Attorney General Grewal released a new statewide use of force policy. If codified, it would significantly strengthen protections against police use of force for people in the state beyond any administration. The statute would not only impose strict limits on officers’ use of force and deadly force, but equally as important, it would require officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force and establishes strict consequences for failure to do so. Something that may have made all the difference in Mr. Nichols' case as well as countless others.

It's been nearly three years since this nation’s last watershed moment with the murder of George Floyd. Nearly three years of talks between advocates and lawmakers; calls for police accountability; three years of empty rhetoric and missed opportunities and the time is now for the state to assume bold, courageous and necessary leadership.

Salvation and Social Justice will continue to strive towards the liberation of our communities through equitable and just public policy, and look forward to working closely with the administration, the Legislature, advocates and community leaders to bring us closer to ensuring a fairer, more just, equitable and safer state for all of its residents. And that safety includes protection from those who took an oath to protect and serve as well as the assurance that anyone who violates that oath will be held accountable.

Find the body camera footage here.

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