Dear Governor Murphy,
We expressly insist that you veto S3939/A5864, a bill that allows police officers to view bodycam footage before coming forward with their reports.
This bill undermines the entire point of the implementing body cameras…to provide a material instrument of transparency!
We also say that this bill, no matter the legislature’s theater of agreement, where critical community engagement was curtailed and expert criticism was derided, takes us backwards on the question of police reform when we sorely need to go forward.
Most offensive to New Jersey’s African American community is that this bill was fast-tracked through the Legislature on the heels of the anniversary of the Emmanuel 9 Massacre in Charleston in June. Why is that important to us? It should not be forgotten that the principal target of that massacre was the late State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also happened to be the pastor of that historic church. Sen. Pinckney helped marshal a united strategy in the statehouse of one of this country’s historically most violently racist states and got BodyCamera requirements passed through both branches and did so almost unanimously!
Only one representative, whose name history will gladly forget, would not join in the making of that historic moment. Tragically, Sen. Pinckney would be dead less than two weeks later.
This bill is a slap in the face of what all of that meant!
We salute the handful of legislators who understood that and voted against that, and I am proud to name them: in the Assembly, Britnee Timberlake; in the Senate, Nia Gill, Ron Rice and Loretta Weinberg, because they embody what true leadership means…Commitment to principle!
Since that initial push through the Assembly, we only were further infuriated by your office’s “touches” to the bill. We do not want to see “touches” on the legitimizing of a bad bill to appease the intimidating police unions. We want to see a united effort to stand up to such intimidation and stand up for what’s right and what’s really needed, and it is NOT THIS BILL!
We say what should happen, instead, is that you would veto the bill and challenge the Legislature to unite on the package of strong police reform bills that are already developed that would round out the strengths and limits of the Bodycam bills that you already signed.
Tell the Legislature that the time has come to pass the following bills:
-The Police Transparency Bill S2656 (D-Weinberg); A5301 (Verlina Reynolds-Jackson)
-The Civilian Review Board with its key authorities intact S2963 (D-Rice); A4656 (McKnight)
-Limiting The Use of Deadly Force S3825 (D-Turner);A4526 (D-Tucker)
-Ending Qualifying Immunity S3730 (D-Gill);A4578(D-Wimberly)
-Ban of Chokeholds S2617 (D-Turner); A4284 (Wimberly)…
Challenge the Legislature, just as we all have been doing and will continue to do. The time to do this is now. The best way to do this is to do this together.
That would be profoundly historic! That would be profoundly principled! That would be a genuinely profound step forward that would engender the trust and accountability that we all need to see!
We can and must do so much better than the bad political theater that is S3939/A5864.
VETO S3939/A5864 now!
Zayid Muhammad is with the Newark Communities for Accountable Policing.