ECPO releases statement on use of force in response to ‘Force Report’

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — On Jan. 25, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement addressing use of force in response to NJ Advance Media’s “Force Report,” which was released approximately two months ago.

“The Force Report,” a comprehensive database and analysis of how often municipal police departments in New Jersey used force from 2012 through 2016, the recent years with the most complete data, was released after NJ Advance Media investigated for 16 months, filed 506 Open Public Records Act requests, collected 72,607 use-of force reports, and spent more than $30,000 for its investigation and data compilation. According to the report, the Maplewood Police Department had the highest use-of-force rate in the entire state.

According to acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II in the Jan. 25 release, his office has been carefully reviewing “The Force Report.”

“Use of force by law enforcement, while sometimes necessary, must be carefully reviewed to maintain public confidence in law enforcement. To maintain the trust of the community, law enforcement leaders must ensure transparency in all investigations concerning the use of force,” the release stated. “This Office remains committed to ensuring that all incidents involving the use of force are properly reviewed. The prosecutor will continue to work with the Office of the Attorney General to maintain and enhance public confidence in law enforcement. As the chief law enforcement officer in Essex County, the prosecutor is committed to working with all county and local law enforcement agencies in the county to provide training and ensure that all guidelines and directives are adhered to.”

Stephens also announced that his office will be meeting with all municipal law enforcement agencies in Essex County and reaffirming Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2005-1, which prohibits the practice of “racially-influenced policing.”