An Assembly committee Monday passed a package of seven bills that address police and race issues, in addition to a marijuana decriminalization plan that also stems from racial disparities in enforcement.

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, D-Passaic, who heads the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee, said many of the bills have been pending for years but found renewed impetus amid the nationwide protests after Minnesota resident George Floyd was killed by a police officer.

“Let’s be clear: I do not believe all police are the proverbial bad apples. Not at all,” Sumter said. “But we must acknowledge the inadequacies in the disproportionate policing and violence against African-Americans in this country, and we cannot assume New Jersey is the least of these.”

The bills include:

  • A1076: Requires attorney general to collect, record, analyze, and report certain prosecutorial and criminal justice data.
  • A1906/A4230: Includes false incrimination and filing false police report as form of bias intimidation; establishes crime of false 9-1-1 call with purpose to intimidate or harass based on race or other protected class.
  • A2394: Requires law enforcement agencies in this state to establish minority recruitment and selection programs; establishes reporting requirement.
  • A3641: Requires Department of Law & Public Safety to incorporate implicit bias in cultural diversity training materials for law enforcement officers; makes mandatory cultural diversity and implicit bias training for law officers.
  • A4263: Clarifies that law enforcement officer who knowingly chokes another person engages in use of deadly force.
  • A4272: Establishes municipal civilian review boards to review complaints against police officers.
  • A4275: Expands category of lists from which single juror source list is compiled to include persons who are utility customers, have non-driver identification card, or have applied for or received various types of assistance.

“Enough is enough,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, who sponsors the bill requiring municipal civilian review boards. “For all lives to matter, we must remember that black lives matter, and our laws must reflect this.”

“The veil is not only pierced, it has been ripped off,” said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer, sponsor of the bill requiring diversity training and implicit bias training.

Police unions supported some of the proposals, though the New Jersey State PBA said the bill that requires review boards is rushed, is less specific than what is allowed under a directive from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and should permit, not require, boards.

Assemblyman Ryan Peters, R-Burlington, raised concerns about the bill restricting chokeholds and abstained from the vote.

“There’s a big difference between a carotid artery and a windpipe, or that way,” Peters said. “From my own experience, training in jujitsu, a carotid artery choke happens 45 times a night in one class. Not deadly. I myself have gone out from a carotid artery choke more than 50 times.”

“Windpipe, definitely. That’s a big problem,” Peters said. “I have concerns about a carotid artery choke being labeled deadly force when I know factually it’s not a deadly force. You can put someone out in under 10 seconds, and they come right back.”

Peters said the longest he has applied a carotid artery choke is 15 to 20 seconds and the person woke up fine. Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, D-Essex, said she appreciates his experience – and for not testing the time limits for applying a blood choke.

“But unfortunately bad actors in the law enforcement agencies have tested, and people who were unarmed are now dead,” Timberlake said.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive to police departments saying officers can only use chokeholds when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life. A broader rewrite of the use of force policy is underway.

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