|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino today announced a new directive establishing a continuing education institute for police and calling upon all officers in New Jersey to receive in-service training aimed at strengthening police community-relations and avoiding deadly encounters.
The Community-Law Enforcement Affirmative Relations (CLEAR) Continuing Education Institute is the centerpiece of a new system of continuing education for New Jersey law enforcement officers, established under the directive, that will provide enhanced training in critical areas such as cultural awareness, community policing, and de-escalating encounters before deadly force is needed. The CLEAR Institute – which will promote the development of new training courses and expand access to the best existing courses – is the latest step in ongoing efforts by the Attorney General’s Office to promote trust between police and the community.
On Aug. 9, Governor Christie approved a law requiring the Attorney General’s Office to make available to police a cultural diversity course to promote positive interaction by police with all community residents, including those of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. In signing the law, Governor Christie emphasized that effective and responsible law enforcement requires a collaborative relationship between police and all residents of New Jersey. Rather than develop that course in isolation, the Attorney General’s Office created an entire system of continuing education to enhance police-community relations.
“New Jersey has great police officers and strong police training programs, but we want to make sure that all officers have access to the very best training in critical areas like use of force, cultural sensitivity and de-escalation techniques,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We’ll continue to work collaboratively with law enforcement and community stakeholders to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to promote progressive training for our officers in New Jersey and positive police-community relations.”
“Police officers across this state will tell you that state-of-the-art training is crucial when it comes to preparing officers for their difficult and dangerous jobs,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The CLEAR Institute will enable our officers to access such training, and will enable them to meet the many challenges faced by police today.”
Under the new directive, all law enforcement officers in New Jersey will be required to complete five credit hours of qualifying continuing education by Dec. 1, 2017, and at least three credit hours of qualifying training during each year thereafter. The CLEAR Institute, which will be based in the Division of Criminal Justice within the Attorney General’s Office, will offer a catalogue of qualifying courses from which to choose, drawing on recommended training courses that already exist as well as newly developed courses. All officers will be required to take the cultural diversity course called for in the new law signed in August within one year of it being made available.
Many of the courses will be available as online-tutorials, pre-recorded presentations, or live broadcasts of remote presentations, so officers will not need to travel and can complete courses while on duty at such locations and times as their departments approve. In addition, officers will be able to complete required training in conjunction with existing semi-annual and annual training requirements related to firearms, use of force, vehicular pursuit and domestic violence, provided the specific course is approved for those purposes as well as being approved as a qualifying course by the CLEAR Institute.
Specific topics relevant to the general goal of enhancing police-community relations will include, but are not limited to, de-escalation techniques; cultural diversity and cultural awareness; racial profiling/racially-influenced policing; implicit bias; conflict resolution; communications skills; crisis intervention training and responding to persons with special needs, including mental health issues; and investigating bias crimes.
Beginning several months ago, the Attorney General’s Office engaged in extensive outreach to community and law enforcement leaders to secure their input in developing this new training directive. Attorney General Porrino thanked all of those community and law enforcement stakeholders. In particular, he thanked the United States Attorney’s Office for providing its cooperation and assistance. Going forward, the CLEAR Institute will work in cooperation with the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Police, the Office of Law Enforcement and Professional Standards, the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police, other law enforcement agencies and organizations, community, faith-based, educational and advocacy organizations, and civic leaders.
The new system of continuing education for police is the latest step in ongoing efforts by the Attorney General’s Office to promote trust between the community and police in New Jersey. In 2015, events across the nation presented an opportunity, and responsibility, for the office to examine how state policies address police use of force and related issues. Over the past two years, the office has held meetings with law enforcement leaders, civil rights organizations and community advocates in New Jersey to discuss ways to strengthen police-community relations and enhance public trust and confidence with respect to police use of force. Those meetings have been instrumental in the development of a number of critical initiatives.
Although New Jersey’s procedures for investigating use-of-force incidents were already among the most comprehensive and rigorous in the nation, the Attorney General issued a supplemental directive in July 2015 to strengthen those investigative standards and ensure that best practices are followed uniformly across the state. The supplemental directive ensures that all deadly-force incidents are investigated in a fair, expeditious, thorough, and impartial manner that bolsters public confidence in the integrity and independence of these investigations.
Along with the issuance of the use-of-force directive, the Attorney General issued another directive instructing police departments how to deploy body-worn cameras in a manner that promotes officer accountability while simultaneously protecting officers from false allegations of excessive force and respecting citizens’ privacy rights. Body-worn cameras can enable police to document objectively the circumstances that lead to the police decision to use force, including deadly force. After issuing the body camera directive, the Attorney General awarded $2.5 million in grant funds to help police departments obtain these devices. Last month, Attorney General Porrino announced a second round of more than half a million dollars in grant funding for body cameras. In March 2016, the Attorney General’s Office issued an additional directive that gave police enhanced guidance and ability to use stun guns as an alternative to deadly force.