Camden cops’ new force policy ‘respects sanctity of all human life’
CAMDEN — Days after a New York City cop was fired for using a chokehold that killed a Staten Island man in an incident that helped propel the Black Lives Matter movement five years ago, a New Jersey police department announced a more comprhensive use-of-force policy.
Officials said the revised policy takes what officers already are learning in de-escalation training and puts it in the rule book. The policy also requires that officers do "everything possible to respect and preserve the sanctity of all human life, avoid unnecessary uses of force, and minimize the force that is used, while still protecting themselves and the public," the county department said in a statement on Wednesday.
The policy is based on national best practices on use of force, de-escalation and mitigation and was vetted and revised with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the local police union.
The policy announcement came after the New York City Police Department on Monday fired Daniel Pantaleo, who used a prohibited chokehold on Eric Garner in 2014. The death, among several high-profile cases involving black boys and men dying in encounters with police, helped spark national protests and unrest.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Pantaleo made a mistake that any other officer could have made, but because he broke department rules, he could “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges related to the fatal arrest attempt and NYPD union criticized the firing.
Garner had been approached by police on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The 400-pound man repeated “I can’t breathe” about a dozen times before he fell unconscious. The incident was caught on video.
Farhang Heydari, executive director of the Policing Project at New York University School of Law, which helped develop the new Camden policy, said the revised rules also stresses the obligation of cops to intervene and report unlawful uses of forces by their colleagues and to provide medical help as soon as it's needed or requested.
Camden officials said the new use-of-force policy is based on "the sanctity of all human life" and six core principles:
— Officers may use force only to accomplish specific law enforcement objectives.
— Whenever feasible, officers should attempt to de-escalate confrontations with the goal of resolving encounters without force. Officers may only use force that is objectively reasonable, necessary, and as a last resort.
— Officers must use only the amount of force that is proportionate to the circumstances.
— Deadly force is only authorized as a last resort and only in strict accordance with this directive.
— Officers must promptly provide or request medical aid.
— Employees have a duty to stop and report uses of force that violate any applicable law and/or this directive.
Rick Kunkel, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 218, said the policy "takes a commonsense approach to situations providing guidance for officers, while still leaving options open when the situation dictates appropriate use of force."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.