TESTIMONY OF R. H. ROBINSON III
NEWARK, NJ CIVILIAN COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARD (CCRB)
IN SUPPORT OF A4656
AUTHORIZES THE CREATION OF LOCAL CIVILIAN REVIEW BOARDS TO REVIEW POLICE OPERATIONS & CONDUCT
NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2021
Chairwoman Sumter, Vice-Chair Timberlake, and members of the Community Development & Affairs Committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
For centuries, our nation has been plagued by the unlawful deeds of some officials in various aspects of law enforcement. When great power is inadequately regulated and checked, society suffers, and now with A4656 we have an opportunity to right some wrongs. For far too long, numerous acts of police misconduct has left taxpaying individuals and their families (mostly Black & Brown people), physically, psychologically, and emotionally scarred. These egregious acts have led to senseless murders, assaults, hospitalizations, trauma inducements, false imprisonments, and the fearful realization that trusting the police is not a luxury afforded to all communities. The Newark, NJ Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) believes in the tenets of law enforcement, but we are focused on providing transparency that illuminates the processes that have long shielded the bad actors within in the ranks. To "Protect and Serve" is a mantra intended to apply to Everyone! But it clearly does not!
If it did, we would not have the painful memories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice, who were all killed by the police. The treatment of Black Americans at the hands of the police have stained our great country, and the same is true right here in the Garden State. Last year alone, three Black Men were killed by police in Asbury Park (Mr. Hasani Best), Atlantic City (Mr. Amir Johnson), and in South Jersey on the Garden State Parkway (Mr. Maurice Gordon). All of which are considered questionable shootings. In addition, each of these incidents ended the lives of Black Men, in less than an hour, who did not pose a significant threat or harm to the officers. Conversely, three white individuals in separate towns (Gloucester Township, Linden & Northvale), were arrested following 4-hour standoffs where they all assaulted the police. Absolutely shocking!
In January of 2021, yet another unarmed Black Man was shot and killed by a police officer, this time in Newark, NJ. For this and many more reasons, there is a lack of public trust of the police, and zero confidence in them holding themselves accountable. Therefore, the public are looking to the CCRB to investigate that recent January matter.
The question remains ... when will it all STOP? The answer, it will stop once we hold the police accountable for their actions. Period! Yes, towns have more body cameras, more surveillance cameras, more policies have been written, more meetings convened, more promises made, but more BLACK & BROWN people are still being killed by the police!
A4656 is a legislative measure that will prove to be effective in several ways, focusing on police accountability and transparency. When a CCRB can engage in parallel investigations, and is granted full subpoena powers, true police accountability will exist. This standard will also develop better relationships between the police and the community. It only makes sense to hold people accountable for their actions, so it is essential that we embrace legislation such as A4656 and others that seek to provide transparency and justice for all.
Serious consideration of A4656 will undoubtedly lead to bad police officers becoming better police officers, the improvement in interactions within the community, and the ending of senseless murders, assaults, hospitalizations, unwarranted trauma, and false imprisonments leading us to a more productive society. This legislation will undoubtedly enhance the lives of Black & Brown people in their respective communities.
For the sake of humanity, let us please pass this bill and get it to the Governor's desk for signature!