Response to SOPD Use of Force Incident

South Orange has released a statement acknowledging the inappropriate use of force against a Black man by a member of the SOPD in January of 2020 (click here for statement). A link to the video of the incident is included in the statement. The video is truly disturbing and the behavior of the officer is reprehensible. We condemn the actions of the officer: he struck a man who was already restrained repeatedly and did not use de-escalating tactics. We are encouraged that the case was referred to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Professional Standards Bureau, and yet disappointed that such actions did not merit criminal charges. We are also encouraged that the SOPD is pursuing termination of the officer. The Use of Force Report issued by the Star Ledger in 2018 has taught us all that we need to be vigilant against the overuse of force by NJ police and the disproportionate use of force against Black people. We will not stand for behavior that threatens the safety and welfare of people by those who are sworn to protect. This behavior threatens our community value of true inclusion. For this reason, we ask the following of the South Orange Board of Trustees: 1. To publicly discuss the recently formed police collaborative and its role in addressing and preventing these issues in the future; 2. To explain the SOPD protocol on the use of police body cameras, and if it was followed in this incident; 3. To report on when and if all officers have received de-escalation training and what the SOPD’s plans are for continued or retraining.

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