South Orange Township is calling for citizens to volunteer “to work in partnership on next steps and identify ways to strengthen community engagement in all matters regarding fair and equal policing in the village” after a public presentation on Jan. 28 at the Board of Trustees meeting.
The presentation, led by Police Chief Kyle Kroll, sought to provide additional data and context following the release of The Force Report by NJ Advance Media.
The Force Report, an NJ Advance Media/Star-Ledger investigation that collected thousands of police use of force reports statewide from 2012 to 2016, “found widespread issues with how police track and use force in the state of New Jersey.” In addition, “The investigation found that a black person in South Orange is more than nine times more likely to be the subject of police force than a white person, and that 100 percent of the juveniles who police used force on from 2012 to 2016 were black.”
Kroll and Village President Sheena Collum both struck a conciliatory tone to start and end the meeting but wanted to stress the work the Police Department had undertaken to limit use of force and combat implicit bias. They each thanked NJ Advance Media for The Force Report: “We need to be challenged. We need to be criticized when we do wrong. … We want the community’s assistance,” said Kroll, who added that he thought the police department is “on our way to excellence.”
However, community members, who waited more than 90 minutes to get the microphone, wanted to be heard.
Community member Bobby Brown challenged Kroll’s characterization of compliance holds as not necessarily being painful, and also said, “The thing that I did not hear you say is we have a problem and here is how we are going to fix it.”
Brown asked Kroll to “stop explaining away the data.” He said he knew that Kroll wanted to let his officers know that he had their back, but Brown invoked his own experience and his concern for his sons and said, “I’d like to know that you have their backs too.”
The Star-Ledger likewise reported, “[T]he meeting took a sharp turn when opened to public comment. More than a dozen residents, most of whom were black, told stories where they said they were racially profiled by police and accused leaders of not acknowledging their experiences.”
“Legitimacy comes with honesty and candor,” said Khalil Muhammad, South Orange resident and professor of race, history and public policy at Harvard University, as reported by NJ.com. “We’ve not really heard any accounting of a problem.”
By the end of the meeting, Trustees said that they had heard the comments and were looking for volunteers to help fix the problem. South Orange posted the following notice on its website (southorange.org) following the meeting:
The Board of Trustees is seeking volunteers to enhance community engagement in policing matters.
On Monday, January 29, 2019, the Board of Trustees hosted a town meeting in response to the “Force Report” undertaken by NJ Advance Media. In addition to members of the governing body and staff, attendees for the presentation and discussion included:
- Chief Kyle Kroll, South Orange Police Department
- Lieutenant Joseph Levanda, Internal Affairs, South Orange Police Department
- Lieutenant Brian McGuire, Detectives Bureau, South Orange Police Department
- Sergeant Ernesto Morillo, Patrol Division, South Orange Police Department
- Thomas J. Eicher, Esq., Director, Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, New Jersey Office of The Attorney General
- Romesh Sukhdeo, First Assistant Prosecutor, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
To supplement the data published by NJ Advance Media, the South Orange Police Department prepared a detailed presentation for the community that explains:
- Types of force and reporting requirement,
- An overview of policing and trends as it relates to arrests, demographics, and juveniles
- Training and initiatives currently underway
The full presentation can be downloaded here.
A video of the meeting broadcast is available here:
Following community questions, comments, concerns, and suggestions, the Board of Trustees in collaboration with the police department is moving forward with soliciting volunteers to work in partnership on next steps and identify ways to strengthen community engagement in all matters regarding fair and equal policing in the village.
Below is a link to volunteer and select available dates to convene the first meeting. All interested parties are encouraged to participate.
Volunteer Here: https://goo.gl/forms/FLxYn5KMcmileZl13