1. New Jersey
In early June of 2020, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal declared many initiatives intended to strengthen trust between their police forces and the communities they assist, including a proposed licensing program for law enforcement and the expansion of the New Jersey’s use-of-force database. The measures were detailed during a daily briefing in Trenton from Governor Phil Murphy. These standards came alive as New Jersey citizens and those across the nation took to the roads in protest of police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old man who died in May of 2020 while in Minneapolis police custody. During the encounter with the man, one of the four Minnesota officers at the scene pinned Floyd down with a knee to his upper body, ultimately preventing Floyd from catching his breath.
“We respect completely the folks who want to protest peacefully,” Murphy responded. “Let’s keep it that way.”
“The pain and fatigue felt by many in our black and brown communities is real, and it is palpable,” Murphy stated. “It is the pain and fatigue of decades, generations — at this point, centuries — of inequality and systemic racism. It is pain that has eroded the ties that bind some of our communities and the men and women whose sworn duty it is to protect them.”
To restore those bonds, Grewal described actions the state will take as a component of the “Excellence in Policing” program originated from late 2019 to promote improved accountability, clarity, and professionalism in New Jersey police forces. One of the moves will be to grow the state’s use-of-force database, including the police departments that do not yet have access by the beginning of July of 2020. By the end of 2020, New Jersey will use the data to refresh its use-of-force methods for the first time in twenty years to “reflect the values of today,” Grewal announced.
The state will additionally launch a pilot plan in some cities to grow crisis intervention team education. Law enforcement will partner with mental health specialists to respond more cautiously to situations concerning mental health. New Jersey will set an incident response team with the purpose of serving “a vital role in defusing tensions and healing a community after a moment of collective trauma,” Grewal stated. The group that will live within the Division of Civil Rights, will station in areas following significant civil rights occurrences.
Grewal further asked that the Police Training Commission execute a statewide licensing program for all law enforcement. However, New Jersey law enforcement agencies like state police already implement certification through rigorous training academies to include sixty hours of firearms instruction, approximately four two hour sessions of physical training weekly, twenty hours of water safety and life-saving instruction, and much more.
“Just as we license doctors, nurses, lawyers … we must ensure that all officers meet a baseline level of professionalism,” Grewal responded, adding that individuals who do not satisfy the standard cannot serve in New Jersey.
2. New York
On May 31, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged for standardized police misconduct procedures across America. Cuomo asserted federal and state governments should enact laws that require police misconduct investigations to be handled by independent, non-local agencies. The governor called on the federal government to define one standard of excessive force by a police officer for all states across the country. He also pushed for the publicity of disciplinary records of law enforcement officers who are involved in cases of misconduct.
“The real issue is the continuing racism in this country, and it is chronic, and it is endemic, and it is institutional, and it speaks to a collective hypocrisy,” Cuomo declared. “We’re very good in this country at telling other people how they should live their lives and how they should act, but we still discriminate on the basis of color of skin. That is the simple, painful truth – but this is a moment for truth. Our challenge today is to use this moment, use this energy constructively, and demand real positive change. And articulate what the change is that we want. George Floyd must not have died in vain. Mr. Floyd’s killing must be a moment in which this nation actually learned and grew and progressed to make this place a better place.”
In June of 2020, the New York City Council enacted six bills that include the requirement of visibility of officer badge numbers, an explicit prohibition on chokeholds or any tactic that restrict air or blood flow, and an oversight requirement of the New York City Police Department’s surveillance technology. These reforms constitute a penalty policy for law enforcement officers with disciplinary issues, a bill that sets into law the right to film police interactions, a system to impose training for officers deemed “problematic.”
In early June of 2020, the Boston Police Department announced it would refresh its use-of-force policies to accommodate calls for reform addressed by protesters in Boston, Massachusetts, and across the nation. 8 Can’t Wait reforms concentrate on decreasing the quantity and type of force applied by law enforcement officers. The police department stated it already implements practices regarding half of the reforms.
“Current events and ensuing civil unrest across the country has brought police reform to the forefront,” the Boston Police Department responded. “One of the major issues for reform is use-of-force by police. All departments across the country should be reviewing their policies and procedures and making necessary changes as needed.”
The requested actions and how the department is reacting are as follows:
- Prohibited chokeholds and strangleholds
The Boston Police Department states there is existing language restricting neck restraints. However, it was not strong enough. They will define that any neck restraints are forbidden except when deadly force is necessary.
- De-escalation before force
The Boston Police Department states that recruits undergo training in de-escalation. Although it is a priority in practice, it was not explicitly mentioned in the department’s use-of-force policies. The department is amending four use-of-force practices relating to deadly force, “less lethal” force, non-lethal force, and taser use. The amendments will “include an introductory statement regarding the importance of de-escalation in all interactions.”
- Warning before shooting
The amending policy states, “In practice, when feasible, verbal warnings and verbal commands are standard.” This is not articulated in the department’s deadly force policy, yet verbal instructions are included in de-escalation policies.
- “Requiring all alternatives be exhausted before shooting”
“Officers are trained in a wide range of reasonable responses for each type of resistance and are instructed to begin with the least severe action.”
- “‘Duty to intervene’ policies”
The amending policy considers that recruits are educated on interference, and the department’s “cannon of ethics” require “excessive or unauthorized force is never justified and every officer not only has an affirmative duty to intervene to prevent such violence, but also to report any such instances that may come to their attention.” This duty was not revealed in use-of-force policies, which is now changing.
- Shooting bans in regards to vehicles
Boston Police Department procedures state that officers should not discharge a firearm at fleeing or moving vehicles except when the officers are threatened with deadly force other than the car itself. The current policy states, “For the purposes of this section, the moving vehicle itself shall not constitute the threatened use of deadly force.”
- Use-of-force continuum
The department operates an existing use-of-force matrix. Recruits and working police officers are trained in the measures.
- “Requiring comprehensive reporting, including when an officer threatens a person with a firearm”
The Boston Police Department recruits are educated about required reporting, but the existing firearm discharge policy solely requires a report when a firearm is discharged, not when it is unholstered while pointed at an individual.
“We will continue to review and amend policies and procedures going forward as they pertain to uses of force and threats of force,” the department responded.
The Boston Police Department stated it would also begin a policing peer intervention program, which “authorizes and empowers officers to intervene in another officer’s actions, regardless of his or her rank.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office states that the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) “lacks sufficient authority to oversee law enforcement professionals and to revoke the licenses of police officers who demonstrate poor moral character or violate the public trust.”
Officials announce the new plans propose creating oversight for law enforcement officers and agencies and setting new methods to assessing disciplinary actions against officers and misconduct complaints.
“We must do more than just condemn bigotry and acts of excessive force committed by law enforcement officers. We must act,” Nessel declared. “I have announced seven proposals for police reform, but this is merely a start. Making meaningful and concrete changes doesn’t end here, but it’s crucial that we move first with measures which create better accountability and more transparency to the actions of law enforcement here in Michigan. This work is a marathon, not a sprint, and I am committed to moving with all deliberate speed in making progress on this front.”
Nessel’s office noted the subsequent proposals for police reform:
- “Authorize MCOLES to revoke a license when an officer: (a) engages in conduct that adversely affects the ability and fitness of the police officer to perform his or her job duties; or (b) engages in conduct that is detrimental to the reputation, integrity, or discipline of the police department where the police officer is employed.”
- “Mandate that law enforcement agencies maintain all disciplinary records of a police officer in his or her personnel file.”
- “Require MCOLES to create a statewide misconduct registry that is accessible by the public.”
- “Amend the Public Employee Benefits Forfeiture Act (MCL 38.2701, et al.) so that officers forfeit their retirement benefits upon conviction of a felony related to contact while on duty.”
- “Mandate law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, and age.”
- “Create an independent investigative and prosecutorial process for deaths that involve the actions of law enforcement officers.”
- “Require continuing education for law enforcement officers as a license requirement; improve and standardize police policies and trainings (including de-escalation, cultural competence & implicit bias trainings).”
5. New Hampshire
In late May of 2020, several individuals from a Black Lives Matter assembly rallied at the Manchester Police Department in New Hampshire. Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano and local law enforcement also connected in a moment of silence in remembrance of George Floyd.
Some of the demonstrators included angry individuals who shouted at the New Hampshire officers. They questioned Capano, but he stated that those questions warranted honest answers. He lingered with them, engaged when suitable, and lent an ear to understand their concerns.
“I explained to them that there is not one police officer at the Manchester Police Department wearing this patch that agrees with anything that happened to George Floyd,” Capano stated as a Manchester Police Commission meeting was held. “It disgusts us all. It’s a hard video to watch. Under no circumstances should that ever happen. The fact that that person, I won’t even refer to him as a police officer, put his knee on George Floyd’s neck is horrible.”
“We do need that community dialogue, and I will be at the forefront requesting it,” Capano stated.
Every year, officers in the state of New Hampshire are required to endure use-of-force training. As part of the education, they examine real-life situations caught on video and consider whether the officer’s use-of-force was reasonable or not. The footage of Floyd pinned to the ground while stating, “I can’t breathe,” is a clear instance of unreasonable force, Concord Police Chief Brad Osgood stated.
“This is a very hard topic for us and truly shakes us to our core,” Osgood responded. “As police officers, that’s not in the traditions in the oath of office that we took.”
As police brutality protests proceed throughout the state of Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced he is working closely with lawmakers on criminal justice and police reform, and investment in neighborhoods of color as of early June of 2020. Pritzker said he is discussing state licensing for officers, among other policies. State licensing was an idea recently brought up by Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Raoul declared state licensing would ensure that law enforcement officers with repeated claims of misconduct could have their licenses pulled, despite how discipline is controlled in a police union contract. Officers would then be prohibited from continuing to serve in a different city. He claims such an arrangement could have disciplined “bad apple” law enforcement officers.
“There’s some things that we’re going to end up doing that maybe the police won’t like,” Pritzker responded. “But what I can say is there is an important agenda here that needs to be pushed forward.”
Pritzker said he has been consulting with Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members, which hosted functions to express attention to proposals for investment in communities of color and police accountability. Members have also requested for a special legislative gathering to discuss the plans.
On June 11, 2020, the Austin City Council in Texas forbade chokehold tactics in response to police brutality protests across the nation driven by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. One day later, an Austin police officer was seen on video kneeling on a protester’s neck, similarly to Floyd’s restraint. Austin police responded, saying that the footage is in review “to determine whether it was lawful and within policy.”
Advocates observing this use-of-force soon after the chokehold regulations reinforce police reform concerns that officials’ current commitments will fall short in practice.
“We’ve seen departments adopt a lot of different use-of-force guidelines, limitations in the last five or six years,” Chris Harris, Texas Appleseed criminal justice project director, responded. “Yet it seems very difficult to say that those have resulted in the type of changes that people envisioned upon their adoption.”
Since Floyd’s death, Texas state policing changes have primarily developed from chiefs declaring new restrictions, votes from city councils, and executive orders signed by mayors. In various cases, officials were promoting reforms that were already in place.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner confirmed a police reform executive order that mostly reflects policies already in the books at the Houston Police Department, one of which includes requiring the limitation of no-knock warrants and de-escalation techniques.
The order was said by a Houston police spokesperson to advise, “we will continue to do what we’ve been doing.”
Officials state that it does not make the effort insignificant. It passes into law current rules so they cannot be easily altered when a different police chief is hired.
Many of the measures used by Texas officials follow the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, similar to Massachusetts. Advocates for criminal justice state that using this framework is a start, but there is no proof that these policies will point to a notable decrease in police brutality.
“We will neither abolish nor defund the police. We will not compromise the safety of the community. Period,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared in a tweet. “But re-imaging policing & investing in people & the community hold the promise of making us even more safe.”
The ACLU of Louisiana has worked since 1956 to improve and preserve the liberties and rights assured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Louisiana.
The ACLU of Louisiana is commanding change in police interaction methods and enforcement of the law in communities of color and low-class neighborhoods across the state. The group states that Americans in these communities endure the effects of law enforcement’s “selective enforcement of low-level and drug offenses” and “widespread use of excessive force.” They also state that police policies and procedures are instrumental in determining which individuals get stopped, arrested, searched, and funneled into the American criminal justice system.
The efforts of the ACLU of Louisiana are designed to address the relationship between law enforcement and communities and to assist in the creation of police departments that operate democratically and collaboratively with all of the neighborhoods they serve, increasing fairness, transparency, public safety, and accountability.
The Delaware Attorney General and lawmakers request that police throughout the state utilize body cameras as of June of 2020. Yet, some of Delaware’s most significant police departments do not have them.
University of Delaware sociology and criminal justice professor Ivan Sun states that studies show body cameras decrease the rate of use-of-force complaints. He also says convictions of police officers accused of using unsuitable force are rare.
“In most cases today, it’s used more effectively against the suspects— citizens who are accused,” Sun stated. “In Delaware, I haven’t heard any— I may be wrong— I haven’t heard any cases, complaints or criminal lawsuits against police officers, that body camera [footage] has been introduced.”
As of April of 2020, about twenty Delaware law enforcement agencies adopted body cameras, according to the Delaware Department of Justice. Not a part of those twenty is the Delaware State Police and the Wilmington Police Department.
Officials have blamed funding for delays in body camera usage since the 2016 pilot, but Mayor Mike Purzycki committed to obtaining the funds needed to put body cameras in place “without delay” after protests in early June.
“The body cameras tell the truth on both sides, if they’re regulated right,” Delaware NAACP State Conference of Branches President Richard “Mouse” Smith stated. “If it doesn’t cut off just before they do the beating and the shooting.”
Leader of Black Lives Matter Wilmington Mahkeib Booker is insistent on Wilmington police wearing body cameras.
“I only can say this,” Booker stated. “We need them in Wilmington, Delaware.”
After protests regarding the death of George Floyd, Maine law enforcement leaders said they want to end police racism.
“There is no place for racism and police brutality in Maine or in our country,” four Maine law enforcement agencies declared. Police “can and must do better.”
“I think data is power. It’s important to know the citizens that we’re working with. So ideally we would have a lot of that information. We don’t have that now,” former Portland police chief Michael Sauschuck stated