Chat Box: Black leaders call on lawmakers to act on police reforms

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In the wake of the Derrick Chauvin convictions in the death of George Floyd, Black leaders in New Jersey are calling on the Legislature to act on bills aimed at reforming policing. Appearing on Chat Box with David Cruz this week, Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, called on lawmakers to take advantage of the public’s attention to the issue.

“We do not want George Floyd’s death to be in vain,” Haygood said. “If there’s a lesson to be learned it’s that … certainly there should be a federal response, but every state ought to be building the kind of system of policing with accountability that protects against a George Floyd being murdered by police in their states.”

Haygood said “precious little” had been done in New Jersey since the Floyd killing. Bills on banning chokeholds, establishing civilian complaint review boards and qualified immunity are languishing in the Legislature, awaiting action in an election year when potentially controversial bills generally don’t get to a floor vote.

“[Qualified immunity] is really the heart of police accountability because they have a significant degree of immunity from their misconduct,” said Haygood. “There’s no other profession quite like it.”

Haygood, a civil rights lawyer, said he talked to many law enforcement officers who would welcome the reforms.

Watch Chat Box live on NJ Spotlight News and the NJ Spotlight News YouTube channel Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., and on NJ PBS Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

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