By Howard Monroe

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Major changes are coming to police departments across New Jersey. The state’s attorney general is reforming use of force policies.

“In every interaction, law enforcement officers are going to do everything they can to uphold the dignity, the rights and liberties of every member of the public when they interact,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.

Every police officer in New Jersey will soon be held to higher standards.

In a town hall, Grewal announced updates to the state’s use of force policy. Among the new policies, deadly use of force must only be used as a last resort and every incident where force was used must be reviewed by the department.

“The updated policy better reflects who we are as a state and it better reflects the best practices of the finest law enforcement agencies not just in this state, but in the country,” the state attorney general said.

The changes apply to all of New Jersey’s 500 police departments. They also include changes to vehicle pursuits, ban chokeholds and using less lethal force.

It’s the first major update to the state’s use of force policy in 20 years.

It also says officers must work to de-escalate the situation before force is used.

“Just as one example, our 20-year-old policy never even included the word de-escalation or the concept of de-escalation,” Grewal said.

Some of these rules are already in place. However, the full policy doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 31, 2021.

Parts of the new policy were taken from Camden. In 2012, the city reformed its entire police department and focused more on community policing. Since then, crime has gone down dramatically.

Retired Camden Police Chief Scott Thompson took part in the town hall. He also oversaw the shift in policing.

“We really have a system in place that doesn’t say, ‘we’ve got this perfect’ or ‘we’ve got this right.’ But we are as good as we can be right now,” Thompson said.

The statewide policy will be reviewed annually once it is fully implemented.


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