The following statement was presented by the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race to the South Orange Village Board of Trustees and the Maplewood Township Committee in response to NJ Advance Media’s release of The Force Report, including a statewide database of police use of force reports between 2012 and 2016:
The Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race appreciate the significant research and data collection work by the reporters and staff of the Star Ledger in the creation of The Force Report database. We believe data can be useful if it is collected and analyzed responsibly. The Coalition on Race will further review the data provided, and continue to work with impacted residents, community partners and elected officials to further develop actions for positive changes on policing matters.
We would like to commend the changes made in both the Maplewood and the South Orange police departments since 2016. The establishment of the Maplewood Community Board on Police, as well as regular anti-bias trainings, a willingness to work with community groups, and to review community complaints and concerns by both departments are positive steps.
That said, we need more than some positive steps on the local level. Our state needs a new staircase. One of the most sobering parts of The Force Report is that the study shows how yet again individuals of color are treated differently throughout New Jersey. North to South, East to West, small towns to large cities—the tale of two New Jerseys—one for whites and one for People of Color is clear as day in The Force Report. A few communities, such as ours, are actively working to correct these disparities in treatment; but the sad reality is most New Jersey communities are not, despite data showing that work is desperately needed. We would welcome the opportunity to join a statewide task force of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, community organizations, elected officials, prosecutors, law enforcement, and social workers to collectively address the fair and safe treatment of individuals who live, work, and leisure in the many municipalities in New Jersey. True change cannot happen in local communities across New Jersey until state level change happens first. Together, we can and we must do better.
As the organization in SOMA that has racial integration and inclusion as its mission, we are keenly aware of the need to ensure that these values are put into actual practice by town leadership, police department leadership, and by all officers. The Community Coalition on Race will continue to advocate for these values and are resolved to engage the community at large in constructive dialogues to support change.
To read the data reports: