Nearly two years after the murder of George Floyd caused a statewide and national reckoning on police-community relations, a bill that would require the chiefs of New Jersey’s police departments to hold community roundtables twice every year advanced from the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today.
The bill, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), previously passed the same committee last session, but was never brought to a vote in the equivalent Senate committee.
“If we want to make our communities safer, we have to address the concerns between police and the communities they protect and serve,” McKnight said in a statement on the bill’s passage. “Creating a forum for open discussions with these roundtables is one way to overcome the divisive issues involving local residents and law enforcement.”
Among those who testified in support of the bill at today’s hearing was Jeff Feldman, representing the National Association of Social Workers-New Jersey.
“The creation of regular roundtables … provides an opportunity to foster trust between police and community members, and ensure the voices of community members are heard,” Feldman said. “This bill represents an important step in addressing police-community relations.”
For advocates of policing reform, such a bill is only one step in a larger process of reshaping law enforcement. Feldman said in his testimony that he hopes the bill will “pave the way for renewed action on other crucial police reforms, including the establishment of civilian complaint review boards, banning chokeholds, establishing limits on the use of lethal force, and eliminating qualified immunity.”
But while those hypothetical measures might draw significant opposition, McKnight’s bill proved relatively uncontroversial, with the State Troopers Fraternal Association and the Association of the Chiefs of Police both supporting the bill.
Six of the committee’s seven members, including two of its three Republicans, voted in support of the bill, while Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) voted no.
This story was updated at 4:42 p.m. with a statement from Assemblywoman McKnight.