NJ Law Enforcement Leaders Pledge Overhaul of Officer Use-of-Force Reporting

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ–The State Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday released a joint statement with several of the state’s law enforcement associations pledging to overhaul the system through which police report the use of force.

The statement comes a week after NJ Advance Media compiled and published the state’s first comprehensive database of every instance of police use of force in the state over the past 5 years.

One of the earliest responses from the law enforcement community was  a harsh rebuke of the database issued by Patrick Colligan, President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association. Colligan accused the authors of the report of stirring up controversy for clicks, and omitting important context.

“Like TMZ, Inside Edition and the like they are giving you a suggestive bit of sensational data to keep an unsuspecting public engaged,” Colligan said. “Regretfully and unfortunately they have only told half the story. True journalists at least attempt to tell an entire story.”

Wednesday’s joint statement was more measured. Officials acknowledged that articles analyzing the data “make one thing clear, although local municipalities, departments, or counties may have effective systems in place, our statewide data collection system requires a complete overhaul.”

In order to build a new system of reporting, the agencies pledged to work together under the leadership of the attorney general on three stated intentions.

First, agencies committed to standardizing the reporting process for use of force. According to NJ Advance Media, use of force reporting varies widely from department to department, town to town, county to county.

The statement also said they intend to explore ways to contextualize data with “accurate information about the officers’ actions.”

“Numbers rarely tell the full story,” read the statement. “data can be easily misused to advance false narratives to malign our profession. The risks are especially great when the date is collected, reported, or analyzed without uniform standards.”

Challenging the idea that they published a statistically dodgy database, Stephen Stirling, a reporter from NJ Advance Media, defended his and his colleagues’ work on Twitter.

“While it is true that the data is unstandardized and difficult to analyze on its own, we have gone to great lengths to standardize it  *for them* over the last 16 months,” Stirling tweeted yesterday.

In addition to standardizing the data that they collected from forms, the team at NJ Advance Media also hired a statistician to ensure the accuracy of their findings.

The law enforcement officials that released Wednesday’s statement seem to have taken a page out of Advanced Media’s book because their third intention is to partner with one or more academic institutions in order to help analyze data and to “ensure the rigor of the state’s data collection efforts.”

According to the statement, officials hope to have the system ready sometime in the new year.

The full list of law enforcement associations which signed the letter follows: Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, the Department of Law & Public Safety, New Jersey State Police, County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, State Troopers Superior Officers Association, State Troopers Non- Commissioned Officers Association, and State Troopers Fraternal Association.

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By: Daniel Wallace