National Roundup

New Jersey
State launches searchable site of police use-of-force reports

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s attorney general on Tuesday launched an online database that allows the public to search reports of police use of force from across the state’s more than 500 police departments.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement that the new site, which his office says is a beta, or test, version, is part of an ongoing effort to increase police accountability and openness.

“We recognize that true accountability is impossible without transparency, and we want to learn how we can make our Use of Force Dashboard as transparent and accessible as possible,” Grewal said.

The site includes data from October 2020, when Grewal began to require police departments to submit reports online for the database, until Feb. 28.

Information on the site can be filtered by county, agency and officer name and also has information about the incident, the interactions between subjects and officers, and the injuries.

The data can be downloaded as well.

A dashboard that summarizes the data on the site shows most of the incidents took place in a street or at a residence and involved potential mental health or domestic disturbances. The most common type of force applied, according to the site, was the use of a takedown.

The site also shows “subject actions that led to use of force,” and indicates that resisting arrest was the top reason for officers’ use of force, followed by “threats” and then “attacks.”

The data also breaks down police use of force on people by their race. It shows that of the 3,677 subjects listed in the database, 44% were Black, while 28% were white. About 18% were Hispanic.

The data also show that in the vast majority of cases officers were not injured, and those arrested were injured at only a slightly greater rate.

Grewal has overseen an expansion of what he categorizes as police accountability measures.

In December, he announced revised statewide rules governing the police use of force, the first update in 20 years. Among the changes was the prohibition of all forms of physical force against civilians except as a last resort, and only once an officer tries to de-escalate a situation.

The rules also barred officers from firing their weapons and moving vehicles or engaging in high-speed car chases, except in certain cases.

Twenty-one states require data collection of some kind on incidents when police use force, though the kind of information collected varies greatly by state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

About half the states require some portion of the data or a summary of it to be posted publicly online, the conference said.

In New Jersey, all law enforcement officers must submit detailed information about every use of force they perform or witness within 24 hours of the incident, according to the attorney general.

Grewal’s office previewed the site with members of the media, including The Associated Press, as well as civil rights organizations and law enforcement officials, before making the beta version available to the public.

Union sues, says school board’s $1,000 stipend discriminates

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A teachers union has sued a northwest Louisiana school system, saying a $1,000 bonus discriminates against women, older workers and disabled people.

The Caddo Parish School Board approved the “Caddo Heroes Stipend Allocation” for full-time employees who were present for at least 90% of their scheduled workdays during the 2020-21 school year.

Red River United, a local of the American Federation of Teachers, filed its lawsuit Monday and announced it at a news conference the same day, news outlets reported.

“This year has been grueling and every employee who has shown up for our students is a hero. That doesn’t change just because someone had to take time off to have a baby, or went in for emergency surgery,” union president Jackie Lansdale said, according to KSLA-TV.

Lansdale said Tuesday that with 3,000 members in Bossier, Caddo and Red River parishes, Red River United is the state’s largest local representing teachers and other school workers.

Teacher aide Amanda Lowery told the news conference that she can’t get the supplement because, as a paraprofessional, she does not get maternity leave and had to take extended sick leave, at 65% pay, after having a baby in February, The Times reported.

“I was excited when I heard about the heroes pay, but then once they said I can’t get it, it’s like, well, what am I going to do now?” Lowrey said.

The Caddo Parish School District released a statement saying it had asked the union for weeks to “cease spreading erroneous and false” information about the supplement, news agencies including KTBS-TV reported. It said district officials do not comment on pending litigation but look forward to a court ruling.

The stipend, to be paid at the end of the current school year, uses about $6 million from higher-than-expected sales tax revenues.

“The Heroes Supplement is the latest effort by the Caddo Parish School Board to ensure employees are supported through the COVID-19 pandemic,” the board said in a statement.

“The district was among the most generous in the region in providing fully paid COVID leave without asking employees to use their personal sick days,” it said. Those days also didn’t count against eligibility for the stipend.

Thousands of employees reportedly wrote to ask the school board to broaden the distribution, according to KSLA.

“To the Caddo Parish School Board, it does not matter that these employees risk their lives as well as the lives of their unborn children each day they step into a school building,” said Jordan Thomas, president of the Caddo Federation of Teachers. “It does not matter that these employees worked while on leave and they only received 65 percent of their daily rate of pay. It is a slap in the face to us and our members for any employee to be left out.”

The union’s petition asked for a court order halting payments until a ruling is made, and asks for a decision without full trial, The Times reported.

“It discriminated unreasonably against female employees and discriminates unreasonably against employees who have a physical condition or handicap,” said the petition filed by union attorney Pam Jones.