From rookies up to the police chief, all Jersey City police officers will undergo de-escalation training over the next eight months, according to a June 18 announcement by Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea.
The training is the administration’s latest step to improve the city’s policing policies and procedures which it says will allow officers to better manage crisis encounters for the betterment and safety of residents as well as JCPD officers and those they encounter in stressful and challenging situations.
The program will “retrain officers to confidently and competently make the best decisions to ensure more positive outcomes when placed in a life-endangering situation,” according to the city.
This comes after the murder of George Floyd, a black man who died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and back for nearly nine minutes in May, which acted as a catalyst for protests around the country against racism and police brutality.
After several peaceful protests in Jersey City, Fulop signed the Mayor’s Pledge through the Obama Foundation, announced changes to the police department’s use of force guidelines, and the council created an adhoc committee to review police policies and procedures which will report its findings in nine months.
“Consistent with the Mayor’s Pledge I signed Day 1, we are making changes where necessary, from amending our Use of Force general orders to forming an ad-hoc review committee to now expanding de-escalation training,” Fulop said.
“We are committed to providing our officers with the best possible training, and the expansion of this training to all officers will greatly benefit the community and meet the growing need for officers to hone their crisis management skills to proactively avoid dangerous situations in the future. We will continue to invest in our police department strategically to remain a national leader with regard to policing policy.”
According to the city, the million-dollar training will be paid for through funds recently received from COVID-19 testing refunds.
The program will expand tactical awareness and communications training, which are currently implemented in the JCPD’s Emergency Service and Counterterrorism Units, to all uniformed members of the department and will be mandatory.
The de-escalation training will be made available to residents and all others interested in observing the techniques being taught.
The dual-pronged, de-escalation program will apply two separate disciplines over the next eight months.
The first will be a Verbal De-escalation and Crisis Communication Program taught by retired NYPD officer, Jack Cambria, who has conducted in-service training for international and federal enforcement agencies and will emulate best practices from cities around the world, according to the city.
The second will be conducted by Tomahawk Strategic Solutions and will use interactive training to focus on strategies and approaches for police officers addressing hostile situations.
“We have a debt to our officers if we’re asking them to police in these difficult times, we owe them the best possible training we can provide,” said Shea. “Residents have requested this type of training out of regard to the public, and for the officers themselves. We have listened to their requests in an effort to further de-escalation efforts for all situations the JCPD encounters on a daily basis.”
“Now is the time for us to focus on what we’re doing here in Jersey City and how we can make changes and improvements within our policies for everyone’s benefit,” said City Council President Joyce Watterman.
According to the city, the training will also focus on historical experiences with policing to address working on officers’ self-awareness and state of mind to ensure they have the training to make the best decisions “and avoid de-escalation when safe and feasible” with the use of force being a last resort even when lawful.
The courses will be implemented on a regular basis once the first round of training is completed. The resolution to approve the vendor contract for de-escalation and other similar training will be presented to the city council at an upcoming council meeting.