New Jersey activists want state action on police reform

Activists and supporters held a rally and march in New Jersey to call on the state to take action on police reform. (Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Activists and supporters held a rally and march in New Jersey to call on the state to take action on police reform. (Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Activists from across New Jersey converged in front of the State House Annex in Trenton Tuesday to demand the state reform local police departments.

Dozens held signs along West State Street as some drivers honked their horns in support.

Lawrence Hamm, a Newark activist and founder of People’s Organization for Progress, organized the event.  He told the crowd that New Jersey has its own problems when it comes to police brutality.

“We know more about police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Wisconsin, in California, in New York City than we know about police brutality right here in New Jersey,” he said.  “And New Jersey has a serious police brutality problem.”

Hamm, who is also running in the Democratic primary against U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, encouraged the crowd to read up on cases that took place in New Jersey like Phillip Pannell, whose 1990 shooting death by police in Teaneck set off demonstrations at the time. NorthJersey.com reported that the officer who shot 16-year-old Pannell was acquitted of reckless manslaughter.

Pannell’s mother and sister attended Tuesday’s rally, along with members of the Newark NAACP.

Hamm and other organizers want the state to require body cameras for municipal police officers and for officers to be charged with a felony if the cameras are turned off or removed. They also demanded that New Jersey ban chokeholds and strangleholds, get rid of no-knock warrants, and create police review boards in every municipality as well as for the state police. Finally, they called for collecting comprehensive data on incidents of police brutality.

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill on Monday requiring police departments to share internal affairs and personnel files of officers who apply to work for other departments within the state.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.