President’s Message: This is not news – The press is misinformed

This should not come as a shock to any of us in law enforcement: New Jersey newspaper editorial boards continue to promote a false narrative that this state has somehow completely failed to address police reform or encourage changes that foster a greater connection between the police and the public. They can’t even acknowledge the fact that we were way ahead of the curve long before anybody ever heard of Derek Chauvin.

The editors and organizations that advocate defunding and neutering law enforcement do not have a monopoly on ideas about how to improve policing. The bills that they still want passed into law are flawed. The NJ State PBA, as the largest law enforcement organization in New Jersey, has had constructive conversation with the legislation sponsors and legislative leaders about enhancements to focus on in these bills.

We will all benefit from better policing, but it is critical that bills be drafted correctly to fix existing problems without creating new ones. And let’s not forget the profound and massive impact this rhetoric has had on quality recruiting.

“The sky is falling” tone of the editorials on police reform denies the truth about how much the state has already accomplished. The editors continue to ignore the enactment of the Early Warning System to help identify rogue cops. They ignore significant changes to the use-of-force policy that community organizations helped to shape. Ironically, it already includes the ability to have a civilian review board.

They ignore the recent updates to internal affairs guidelines. They ignore legislative efforts to encourage minority recruitment in policing, to give the attorney general control over police-involved shootings, the body camera bill and the many other bills that moved swiftly in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

And, most critically, the editors are simply not telling the whole story. New Jersey law enforcement started the reform discussion light years ahead of the rest of the nation. Minneapolis has had police licensing, yet it didn’t prevent Mr. Floyd’s death. Yes, let’s not forget Derek Chauvin was licensed.

Legislation is not some mystical magic wand that erases rogue cops. Regretfully, some – few, thankfully – will still slip through the system. New Jersey law enforcement officers are far better trained and routinely subjected to continuing education and mandatory training.

We are also subject to more oversight from the local, county and state level than any other state. As a result, we rank 45th among all states in police-involved deaths from January 2013 through December of 2021 despite being the most geographically dense state in the country.

To suggest we are falling behind is nonsense. We were far ahead on police professionalism long before anybody ever heard the word “defund.”