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Grewal cautions against use-of-force stories

Turnabout comes days after promise of reforms following Ledger investigation

By Nikita Biryukov, December 05 2018 7:02 pm

In a joint statement with the Department of Law and Public safety and the state’s police unions, State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal acknowledged that New Jersey has gaps in its reporting of police use-of-force reports.

“Last week, the Star-Ledger began publishing a series of articles about the gaps in the uniformity of our state’s use-of-force data collection efforts, as well as the newspaper’s effort to build a use-of-force database of its own,” the statement said. “The articles make one thing clear: Although individual municipalities, departments, or counties may have effective systems in place, our statewide data collection system requires a complete overhaul.”

The Ledger’s investigation, which involved obtaining and analyzing more than 72,000 use-of-force reports, found, among other things, wide racial disparities in how law enforcement officials used force.

After the stories broke, Grewal promised major reforms to the state’s monitoring of police force, but days later, he was cautioning against taking those same stories at face value.

“It is for this very reason that we also caution reporters and members of the public about relying on data in the Star-Ledger’s database: Because our state lacks uniform data collection methods, the records obtained by the Star-Ledger may be inaccurate in some cases and may cause those relying on the data to draw incorrect conclusions about the state of law enforcement in New Jersey,” the statement said.

Grewal is still promising reforms and announced a handful of policy changes his office would be making, but for those who conducted the investigation, the subtext was clear.

“Translation: Most departments are doing a good job! But don’t trust the reporting based on information they turned over in compliance with state records laws and an AG directive, because it’s…not accurate,” Ledger reporter S.P. Sullivan said on Twitter.

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