From Maplewood Township Committee and the Maplewood Police Department:
Maplewood Township and the Maplewood Police Department are committed to fairness and respect for all individuals in our community. The Maplewood Township Committee and Maplewood Police Department are aware of “The Force Report” that has been published on NJ.com by NJ Advance Media. The use of force by Maplewood Police officers is an issue of great importance to the Township Committee and one that merits further review. We recognize that improvements are necessary, as shown clearly in the events of July 5, 2016 and suggested in “The Force Report”. We are striving diligently to enhance safeguards against bias and disparate treatment and to reduce the use of force by Maplewood Police officers as much as possible.
Accordingly, the Township has taken significant steps over the past two years to address this concern, to change the culture of the Maplewood Police Department, to expand and improve officer training, and to provide increased opportunity for public oversight and feedback regarding law enforcement in our community.
Among the specific actions taken by the Township over the last two years are:
- Replacing Department leadership, including appointing a new Chief, Deputy Chief, and Captain;
- Engaging a professional outside consultant to investigate the use of force by Maplewood Police officers on July 5, 2016 and make recommendations for changes and improvements in the Department;
- Organizational changes to improve officer supervision, increase accountability, investigate allegations of misconduct, and implement appropriate discipline and training;
- Hiring and promoting of a greater diversity of officers within the Department;
- Increasing training for officers, particularly in the areas of appropriate use of force, crowd control, and de-escalation (the Department’s training budget doubled in 2018); and
- Creating the Maplewood Community Board on Police, which provides the opportunity for residents to review police data and activity and make recommendations to the Township to improve the Department.
Further, as mentioned in “The Force Report”, the Chief of the Maplewood Police Department has implemented policies and procedures specifically to reduce the rate of arrests and use of force against juveniles. Chief DeVaul has also overhauled the Department’s oversight process, including personally reviewing all use of force reports, to uncover and eliminate any potential bias in how individual officers are using force. The Department is also committed to continuing to document any and all uses of force by its officers in compliance with the guidelines of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. The Township Committee is committed to building trust between the Police Department and the community, and is confident in the leadership of Chief Jimmy DeVaul and Deputy Chief Albert Sally and believes the Department is headed in the right direction.
The Township recognizes that the information in “The Force Report” is of great interest to the Maplewood community. The Township Committee will be holding a community forum on this topic, including a range of stakeholders, on a date to be announced shortly. We look forward to a productive dialogue on this important subject.