Montclair NAACP Calls For Montclair Police Reform – Body Cameras, Civilian Review Board

The Montclair NAACP sent a letter Tuesday to the Montclair Police Department and The Montclair Town Council with recommendations to reform the Montclair Police Dept.

“The Montclair Branch of the NAACP is pleased to provide the Township with specific recommendations to provide additional transparency and accountability to the criminal justice system in Montclair “ says Al Pelham, President of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP.

The letter reads as follows:

To: Mayor Spiller and the Town Council:

The Montclair Branch of the NAACP is in support of the implementation of the points listed below for which input was presented to us by the following groups:

Montclair Citizens for Equality and Fair Policing,
For the People Foundation and
Montclair United (BlueWave of NJ and the Montclair NAACP).

Body cameras-

1.) Body cameras should be worn at all times, activated at the onset of the call and through the duration of the said call. 2.) The body camera should have a field of view at least as broad as the officer’s vision and to be worn in the manner that maximizes the camera ability to capture visibility of the officer’s activities. 3.) Limitations on use of body camera – body cameras should not be used to gather intelligence based on 1st Amendment Protected Speech, Associations, Religions or to record activity that is unrelated to a response to a call for service or a law enforcement or investigative encounter between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public, and shall not be equipped with or subjected to any real time facial recognition technologies. 4) The Town Council should investigate the cost of the Technology needed to support the body cameras and either through The State Forfeitures Funds Program or a budget line item and implement this as soon as possible. 5) Disciplinary procedures should be documented for any encounter between an officer and the public in which body camera film is not available.

Explanation of Civilian Review Board —

A Civilian Review Board (CRB) is a municipal body composed of citizen representatives charged with the investigation of complaints by members of the public concerning misconduct by police
officers. However, many CRB’s have not had the authority, independence or resources to achieve their mission and as a result, complaints were not adequately addressed. Here are a few essential features to ensure that the proposed CRB is successful.

1.) The agency should be independent with secure funding.
2.) Board members should have a broad scope to review complaints including investigatory, as well as review authority.
3.) The board should have the power to conduct parallel investigations to supplement the internal affairs investigations
4.) The CRB should represent the community with majority of the board nominated by community organizations and the rest appointed by the mayor and/or council.
5.) The CRB will only be effective if its recommendations are taken seriously. Any CRB disciplinary recommendation that has been thoroughly and fairly investigated but not implemented or addressed by the police department should trigger a formal review process. 6.) The CRB should be transparent, responsive, and available to the public. At the minimum, community meetings should be held, and activity reports generated bi-annually.
7.) The CRB will have subpoena power and can force a police officer to testify.

Police Identification Business Cards

As the result of any encounter with the public and the police officer request paperwork, they should provide the citizen with their business card which will have all of their pertinent information.

These are just 3 of many recommendations that are being submitted by various community organizations with the goal to build upon and hopefully strengthen the relationship between the Montclair Police Department and the citizens of Montclair and its many visitors.

We will address other issues once we have successfully implemented the recommendations noted above.

Albert Pelham
President of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP. Presented July 28,2020

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  1. I am open to Abraham Dickerson’s list of ‘demands’. I think more Montclairions should be listening to him on a range of local issues.

    Now, to put it nicely, a Civilian Review Board over the MPD won’t work in Montclair. Period. It’s a non-starter. Look at our many Boards & Commissions. There is not one that exists on a level we would expect and require of a CRB. Ethics, transparency, control. Further, we would have to add another review board to review the Review Board. And finally, we would have to dispense with our Faulkner system of governance. So, my question is what other tools are there to achieve the transparency and fairness standards for our community?

  2. I forgot. This Council will be appointing citizens to the new Rent Control Board. This Rent Control Board will not protect all renters. It will protect about half the 44% of rental households in town. The other half, sorry, we have our special interest groups. These special interests are various small corp entities and owner-occupied households.

    This new Rent Control Board will have the highest standards as any other, including the proposed CRB. And maybe, on a good day, they will attain a level of quality that approaches the high level of our Board of Education. The choice offered is to hope for the best AND plan for the best.

  3. ” . . . . we would have to add another review board to review the Review Board.”

    Kinda like needing a review board to oversee AG Barr and the DOJ. His performance before the House Judiciary Committee was a fiasco yesterday.

  4. Unless one is an Independent…or a Socialist, or a Marxist, or a Communist, etc. For any value system other than our Democrats or a Republicans, the session was another count in an indictment of our two-party system.

    It is structural. We’re just going to ping pong back and forth every 4 years. Live with it.

  5. The first laughs to you.

    But, you recognize the values that enable them.
    [Sidebar: What’s the difference between a fad and a trend?]
    Then there is the “the enemies of my enemies are my friends” coalition behind Biden. A coalition that will be severely tested this October. Lingering resentment & “irreconcilable” differences. Then, divorce, remarry, repeat.
    I’ll concede all near-term laughs to you. too.

  6. You do know I’m just having my fun?

    This administration is an aberration and natural social forces will bring us back into the normal range. The pandemic is serving as b both a catalyst and a clarifying reagent.

  7. The State Attorney General has issued binding guidelines for any police department that uses body cameras. Among the many areas covered by the guidelines are when police officers must activate their cameras and the very limited circumstances under which they can turn off cameras in the middle of a response. Montclair would not be able to adopt its own guidelines in this regard; they must follow the state rules. I think the Montclair NAACP should be generally pleased with the Attorney General’s guidelines, however, which the State NAACP and many other civil rights leaders participated in drafting.

    The Attorney General’s guidelines also make clear that people who interacted with police officers should be able, in most cases, to review the camera footage of that interaction if they are considering a complaint. The guidelines provide for other reasons to access images of important interactions with police, but do not contemplate that body camera footage generally would be subject to ordinary public records requests. When there is a matter of significant public concern, such as an officer-involved shooting, the guidelines direct the County Prosecutor to release the footage as quickly as possible after initial witness interviews.

    The reason why Montclair has not adopted body cameras so far, as I understand the Council’s hesitancy, is solely about the cost of responding to potential public records requests if our courts ultimately do not agree with the Attorney General that body camera footage should not be subject to OPRA requests. If anyone can demand the footage from Officer Jones’ 8-hours shift, someone is going to have to review that footage to make sure, for example, there are no images of crime victims, pictures inside private homes, etc. That could be very expensive, and I can understand the Council’s hesitancy. It has been four years since most State Troopers began using body cameras, however, and I think it is time for Montclair to join the growing list of New Jersey police departments that use them.

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