In the March issue, this column highlighted multiple headline police reforms Governor Murphy’s administration has pushed. We mentioned law enforcement challenges surrounding changes to policing, including bail reform and vehicle pursuits. Multiple recent reforms have created a situation that sides with those committing crimes and intensifies the potential danger to all of us in law enforcement.
Governor Murphy recently put forward a new nominee to serve as attorney general in Matthew Platkin. NJSPBA President Pat Colligan and I have already had the opportunity to sit with Attorney General Platkin, and we were assured of his commitment to work with the men and women serving in law enforcement.
Platkin’s calendar is full of additional introductory meetings with law enforcement throughout the state. Based on our initial conversations, we are hopeful that the attorney general will be a partner with law enforcement and is ready to work together on the challenges and increased dangers we face during these difficult times.
The sharp rise in gun violence has led to further discussion on bail reform and whether it is allowing dangerous criminals to remain on the streets, resulting in an increase in crime. The legislature is also reviewing new laws to ensure that more people arrested on gun charges would be incarcerated until their trial. The significant increase in car thefts across New Jersey has also sparked legislative pushback about the administration’s no pursuit policy.
“Criminals are stealing cars to hide their identity as they commit other offenses and now cops can’t pursue a possible stolen vehicle. It’s ridiculous and irresponsible,” Assemblyman Brian Bergen said in an officially released statement. “I support our police and demand that the administration start treating them like the professionals they are and stop handcuffing them at every turn.”
We agree. The no-pursuit policy is laughable when you hear stories from colleagues who have been confronted directly by offenders who know that they cannot be pursued when fleeing in a stolen vehicle.
We have heard from various police chiefs throughout the state that the new attorney general has expressed interest in holding a roundtable discussion specifically on car pursuits and other law enforcement policies. It should go without saying that these discussions would have been far more valuable had they been held prior to any policy changes. But this is a new attorney general and therefore the beginning of a new working relationship.
Of course, we will maintain the hope that conducting a “listening tour” to hear the real-time impacts of these new policies after the fact will at least provide a forum to discuss increased crime and the impact these changes have had on law enforcement. This is, at least, a step forward.
We are hopeful that as the top law enforcement officer in New Jersey, Attorney General Platkin will approach these meetings, as he approached our initial meeting, seeing an opportunity to hear about the challenges we face every day and with an eye toward working with us to improve public safety. It is our hope that Mr. Platkin will remain focused on doing the right things to help law enforcement, and not simply on implementing additional headline police reforms that make our jobs more difficult and significantly more dangerous.
These continue to be troubling times for law enforcement. Remember to look out for one another. The priority is to make it home safely to your family after each shift.
And just a quick update on the NJSPBA Survivor & Welfare Fund, our not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing support and survivor benefits to the families of PBA members who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty and easing the burden of those officers who are experiencing significant personal hardships. Survivor & Welfare will be hosting a golf outing on May 2 at Trump National in Bedminster. Together, we need to continue advocating for, and supporting commitments to, this important fund.