Edgewater Online

Edgewater's Online News Website Search Engine

Fri12062019

Last updateThu, 05 Dec 2019 12pm

You are here: Home News "Beyond Bergen" - News From Across New Jersey Police union grudgingly endorses use-of-force reform | Editorial

News From "Beyond Bergen"

Police union grudgingly endorses use-of-force reform | Editorial

Better late than never. Watch video

The worst stereotype of police unions is that they defend incompetent cops at all costs, hunkering down to oppose public transparency at every juncture; responding with overly belligerent statements when what's called for is nuance and a dose of healthy self-examination.
 
Good cops deserve better. So we're pleased to welcome Patrick Colligan, head of the State Policemen's Benevolent Association, to the policing data reform effort. Better late than never.  
 
After acerbically dismissing an exhaustive and disturbing report on police use of force compiled by NJ Advance Media for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com as "clickbait entertainment," Colligan now pledges to help collect this data in the future.

N.J. rocked by release of police force records, spurring town meetings, calls for action and promises of reform
 
He just signed on to a statement with Gov. Phil Murphy's Attorney General and other police unions, saying they'll be "working together to design a new system for obtaining use-of-force data in New Jersey." Great.
 
But let's be clear: This is exactly what "The Force Report" did. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal agreed that reporters shouldn't have had to pay more than $30,000 and file hundreds of public records requests to compile it.
 
As part of their 16 months of legwork, they requested an interview with the PBA. Colligan didn't respond, just like he refused to discuss this with us on Monday.
 
Yet hours after the report came out, he assailed it as "a clickable database for watercooler banter today, nothing more." Really?
 
New Jersey's top cop, Grewal, begged to differ, praising it as "nothing short of incredible." "They've analyzed it to see if there are patterns of behavior that should cause concern or raise red flags," he said. "That's something that we should be doing."
 
Policing data experts heartily agreed. While most cops rarely used force, many departments had troubling outliers, the report found. Multiple officers charged with brutality and other misconduct would have been flagged early, had our state used a better system.
 
This report states outright: Policing is a risky profession and use of force is not misconduct. It's just an early warning. The calculation that, on average, more than three cops a day are getting injured on the job also cries out for a closer look.
 
Colligan argued this database should have included additional reports and witness statements, to indicate whether each use of force was justified. But by law, police departments can withhold these documents from the public, which they frequently do.
 
Colligan knows this, because it's police unions like his that have opposed the public release of such records. Yet now, he complains that more documents aren't included here: "True journalists at least attempt to tell an entire story," he wrote.
 
This is why reporters fought the PBA in court. As its state head, Colligan hasn't exactly been on the front lines, pushing for more disclosure.
 
NJ Advance Media also hired a statistician who has studied use of force extensively, John Lamberth, to review its team's work. His primary criticism was that the database was too deferential to police. If five officers used force on one person, for example, it was counted as a single incident for that department's rate of force, even though it could be argued that there were five uses of force.
 
Colligan maintained to the Asbury Park Press last year that bad apple cops "will either be weeded out by their peers, or their actions will weed themselves out." But obviously, that's not happening.
 
Among the officers who would have been flagged early, had the state been keeping track: Sterling Wheaten, one of the five Atlantic City cops involved in mauling a drunk man who yelled at them.
 
After Wheaten sicc'ed his snarling police dog on the guy, leaving him with 200 stitches, taxpayers settled the case for a staggering $3 million. Did we really want to let this cop's actions "weed themselves out?"
 
We need to do better, Detective Colligan.

The Force Report is a continuing investigation of police use of force in New Jersey. Read more from the series or search your local police department and officers in the full the database.

Read more from The Force Report:

Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

 

 


Read full article at NJ.com


Share