New Jersey launches searchable site of police use-of-force reports

A close-up of a New Jersey State Police Officer's uniform

A close-up of a New Jersey State Police Officer's uniform. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

New Jersey’s attorney general on Tuesday launched an online database that allows the public to search reports of police use of force from across the state’s more than 500 police departments.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement that the new site, which his office says is a beta, or test, version, is part of an ongoing effort to increase police accountability and openness.

“We recognize that true accountability is impossible without transparency, and we want to learn how we can make our Use of Force Dashboard as transparent and accessible as possible,” Grewal said.

The site includes data from October 2020, when Grewal began to require police departments to submit reports online for the database, until Feb. 28.

Information on the site can be filtered by county, agency and officer name and also has information about the incident, the interactions between subjects and officers, and the injuries.

The data can be downloaded as well.

A dashboard that summarizes the data on the site shows most of the incidents took place in a street or at a residence and involved potential mental health or domestic disturbances. The most common type of force applied, according to the site, was the use of a takedown.

The site also shows “subject actions that led to use of force,” and indicates that resisting arrest was the top reason for officers’ use of force, followed by “threats” and then “attacks.”

The data also breaks down police use of force on people by their race. It shows that of the 3,677 subjects listed in the database, 44% were Black, while 28% were white. About 18% were Hispanic.

The data also show that in the vast majority of cases officers were not injured, and those arrested were injured at only a slightly greater rate.

Grewal has overseen an expansion of what he categorizes as police accountability measures.

In December, he announced revised statewide rules governing the police use of force, the first update in 20 years. Among the changes was the prohibition of all forms of physical force against civilians except as a last resort, and only once an officer tries to de-escalate a situation.

The rules also barred officers from firing their weapons and moving vehicles or engaging in high-speed car chases, except in certain cases.

Twenty-one states require data collection of some kind on incidents when police use force, though the kind of information collected varies greatly by state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

About half the states require some portion of the data or a summary of it to be posted publicly online, the conference said.

In New Jersey, all law enforcement officers must submit detailed information about every use of force they perform or witness within 24 hours of the incident, according to the attorney general.

Grewal’s office previewed the site with members of the media, including The Associated Press, as well as civil rights organizations and law enforcement officials, before making the beta version available to the public.

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