With the New Year about to begin, police departments across the Garden State are vowing to work overtime to strengthen bonds of trust with the communities they serve.

Barnegat Police Chief Keith Germain, who is also the public relations chairman of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said many departments offer citizen police academies to give people a better understanding of policing.

“We bring in members of the public and take the time to really dive down into how we handle all of the various types of situations, how rigorous and involved the training is that officers go through in New Jersey," he said.

He said the social unrest protest marches that took place earlier this year in New Jersey were peaceful but in other states some were not and sometimes “police officers just get blanket associated with that incident and with that type of officer performance.”

Germain also noted the pandemic, in many instances, has made the job done by police more difficult this year.

“When we see police being charged with having to enforce executive orders that aren’t necessarily very popular, that sometimes puts the brunt of negative feedback on the police officers and departments,” he said.

He stressed that New Jersey "is well ahead of the curve on best practices and, in really leading the country in progressive policing.”

Germain said that national discussions about policing reforms often refer to efforts that already have been implemented in New Jersey.

Germain said having the Garden State move forward with a plan to have all police officers in all departments equipped with bodycams is a positive step because it will promote credibility and accountability.

“I can tell you we’re doing it right all day long. But until people see for themselves that we’re doing it right, sometimes it’s hard getting that convincing message across," he said.

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