Editor’s Note: In light of the release of NJ.com’s The Force Report, a database of police use of force in NJ between 2012 and 2016, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum sent Village Green the following response:
First and most importantly, I want to recognize and thank NJ Advance Media for undertaking such an extensive public information project on policing and use of force. In South Orange, we were aware of this initiative well in advance of its public release as our Police Chief and Internal Affairs Lieutenant welcomed and met with an Investigative Data Reporter for over two hours to answer any questions he had and support this initiative that is inherently grounded in transparency and accountability – something we should all welcome, including law enforcement agencies.
With respect to your question about trends [Editor’s note: Village Green asked Collum to comment on local police use of force trends and any subsequent initiatives], there is one in South Orange that won’t be seen in the Use of Force Database. Since 2016, the concluding date of data collected, use of force in South Orange has decreased by roughly 50% and is down from its peak in 2012 by 80%. In 2017, we had 5 instances where an officer needed to use force and year to date in 2018, we have had 6 instances. As the database also shows, the primary use of force in South Orange is a “compliance hold” and is used primarily in response to “resisting arrest”.
I attribute this trend to the ongoing work that is happening in the police department under Chief Kroll. De-escalation training is important and earlier this year, Chief Kroll initiated an “eradicating racial profiling” training. On one hand, I’m pleased with the direction and emphasis on professional development and the standard to which our law enforcement officers are being held but on the other hand, it’s to be expected – here and in every police department across the state. Fair and equal policing is a moral imperative and not just a lofty goal.
As always, we welcome and encourage community members to continue having conversations about this important topic and all I can ask is that we collectively and cooperatively use data responsibly and in a way that generates positive outcomes for both residents and guests of our town. Internal Affairs Lieutenant Joseph Levanda is available to speak with any member of the public on questions concerning this report and can be reached at 973-763-3000 extension 7794.
The Village Green will continue to review The Force Report database and report out on this story.