Social justice and criminal justice reform proponents from all over New Jersey are roundly condemning Governor Murphy signing into a law a controversial bill that would allow police officers to view their body camera footage before filing their incident reports. Murphy signed the bill (A5864) last week. Critics have been consistently rallying against the bill as it was fast tracked through the Legislature to appease the police unions.
When it passed through the Senate, its last leg before the Governor’s Desk, only the outspoken Sen Nia Gill roundly condemned the bill and voted against it.
“The Nia Gills of the land should be the rule on matters like this, not the exception to the rule,” said Zayid Muhammad on behalf of Newark Communities for Accountable Policing (NCAP).
Incredibly, the Legislature had every opportunity to pass far more meaningful police reform bills, including most especially the groundbreaking Civilian Complaint Review Board Bill (A4656 D-McKnight) and the Police Transparency Bill (S2656 D-Weinberg), but didn’t.
Although there was clear broad based support for these bills, including a dramatic 67 Mile March from Montclair to Trenton earlier in October, none of these bills were ever even considered for a vote.
Yannick Noah, who penned a searing critique of the Legislature’s lack of real action in the George Floyd Aftermath several months ago, had this to say on behalf of the NJ Institute of Social Justice.
“Since George Floyd's murder, New Jersey has passed no police accountability bills.
“This is a dishonor to Mr. Floyd and all the others who have lost their lives to police violence in America and New Jersey."
Abdul Malik Muhammad, who just lost his stepson Carl Dorsey to an undercover Newark police officer last year in an incident where Dorsey was unarmed and was not committing a crime in any way, echoed that and had this to say angrily.
“If the police expect for the population to trust them, than they should have no problem with allowing their camera footage to be viewed without their interference
“This reeks of untrustworthiness and guilt!”
Matt Dragon of the Mercer County chapter of Our Revolution was also quite pointed when he said that “This bill turns the body camera from a device to protect citizens and create accountability and transparency into a device to protect the police from their own bad actions.
“One has to look no further than the initial police report that George Floyd had a medical issue and died to understand why this bill is flawed, and with likely fatal consequences.”
Veteran New Brunswick based activist Cuqui Rivera of the Latino Action Network, pointed out how this bill represents a step backwards from what Governor Murphy initially put forward when he first mandated Body Cameras in 2020.
“We had a much better Bill that was gutted by this change.
“This makes this Bill not worth the paper it is written on.
“Governor Murphy, you got it wrong on this one.”
Zellie Imani of Black Lives Matter Paterson had this to say about the bill’s signing and its timing.
“A day after Governor Murphy came to Paterson to participate in a MLK Day of Service, he did a disservice to the movement of Social Justice by signing legislation that helps police avoid accountability.”
Murphy’s gesture also comes on the heels of the Paterson police-involved shooting of 25 year old Thelonious McKnight on December 30th.
The police say McKnight had a gun and fired. Eyewitnesses say that McKnight had his hands up and did not have a gun.
None of the officers involved were wearing body cameras.
“The police organizations put the full court press on the legislature, and Democratic leadership caved,” said a fuming Lawrence Hamm who was the centerpiece of the 67 Mile March for Justice last Fall.
ACLU Karen Thompson, who has been putting in substantial work in the crafting of the proposed bill (S3730) by Sen Gill, Ending Qualified Immunity summed it up this way.
“For New Jersey to build truth and accountability in policing, we shouldn’t be arming police with additional means to evade public scrutiny – we must strengthen, not weaken, the tools we already have in place and implement additional accountability measures, like providing CCRBs with subpoena power, making police misconduct records public, and ending qualified immunity.”
“This is not Trump.
“This is not angry white male Republicans,” said NCAP’s Zayid Muhammad again.
“This is Murphy and a legislature full of Democrats who did nothing of genuine substance on police reform but this offensive deed.
“At a time when Trump and other dangerous forces are actively undermining our very right to vote, this was outrageous!
“Make no mistake about it.
“We shall return.”
NCAP launched a statewide network of almost two dozen Social Justice organizations now called NJ Communities for Accountable Policing to garner support for the Civilian Complaint Review Board bill and other important police reform bills.
For more information about these efforts, please call 973 202 0745...
January 24, 2022
CONTACT: ZAYID MUHAMMAD,
NEWARK COMMUNITIES FOR ACCOUNTABLE POLICING
973 202 0745 firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE