Assemblywoman McKnight’s bill to create civilian review boards across NJ clears committee

The legislation would give residents input in police matters involving abuse or excessive use of force

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Assemblywoman McKnight’s bill to create civilian review boards across NJ clears committee
Assemblywoman McKnight kneels with residents at the Bayonne protest on June 7.

As peaceful protests in honor of George Floyd and against police brutality continue across the country, change is being made. Some lawmakers have heard the calls for change and are coming up with ideas for new laws. In Hudson County, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) has a plan.

McKnight is a Democrat representing the 33rd legislative district, including parts of Bayonne and Jersey City.

Legislation to provide local resident input in police matters involving abuse or use of excessive force, sponsored by Assemblywoman McKnight, has cleared the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee Monday.

Assemblywoman McKnight proposed the legislation on June 8, and now that it has cleared committee, it will head to the Assembly for a vote.

Civilian review boards

The bill would establish a civilian review board in every municipality to review and investigate complaints against members of the police force of the municipality.

In those municipalities that have state police serve in the role of the municipal police force, the civilian review board would review and investigate complaints against members of the State Police serving in that capacity within the municipality.

Last year, the City of Newark established a civilian police review board after federal authorities discovered police abuse and use of excessive force in its department.

“The rise in fatalities of men and women in police custody happening around the country has left communities in despair, feeling targeted and on the wrong side of justice,” Assemblywoman McKnight said in a statement.

“When we talk about restoring community and police relations, the involvement of community members in the dialog that directly affects their neighborhoods and the actions taken by police in their communities is now critical to maintaining social justice.”

According to Assemblywoman McKnight, this is about fostering transparency, fairness, and equality in justice served.

“It will do more to nurture positive relations in future between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” she said.

A civilian review board would consist of seven members who are appointed by the mayor or other chief executive officer of the municipality with the consent of the governing body of the municipality.

Updating use-of-force policy

The bill would also require enforcement of an updated policy for use of force by each law enforcement agency in the state, Assemblywoman McKnight said when she proposed the legislation.

The legislation proposed is the first step to clarifying guidelines of what can and cannot be done by police while interacting with the community.

“Putting guidelines in place to regulate use of force is just one major pillar of the holistic police reform necessary to improve police and community relations in the Black community,” McKnight said. “I also encourage local government leaders to re-evaluate their budgets as it relates to reallocating funding to critical community and social services.”

McKnight intends to work with Gov. Phil Murphy and NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to put in place a system of checks and balances against police brutality.

“It will take a collaborative effort from the local, state and federal levels to bring about comprehensive change in the wake of the death of George Floyd and so many other Black lives that have been lost around the country at the hands of police officers, and I welcome all stakeholders to the table.”

This legislation is one of several bills discussed and approved by the Assembly Community Relations Committee on June 15 on social justice reform.

Other bills that cleared committee include legislation to expand juror source lists to ensure diversity on juries, to designate police use of choke holds as “use of deadly force,” and to set new regulation for possession and personal use of marijuana.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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