The Lawrence Township Council and municipal manager Kevin Nerwinski released statements today in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

They said that the township also plans to engage in a community conversation regarding the police department’s policies governing the use of force and other issues.

The statement follows:

Over the last two weeks the members of Lawrence Township Council, the Lawrence Township Police Department, and township administration have watched with broken hearts the events across the country and have watched with pride at how our residents have come together to support each other.

Last week, Township Council and the police chief came together to show our support for our community and the statement that Black Lives Matter.

We gathered simply with candles to stand and kneel in solidarity with those that are looking for justice. There were no invited guests or speakers, as we wanted to be mindful of the prohibition against gatherings of more than 25 people and the curfew that evening.

Since that time, we have received many e-mails of concern about the curfew and our police department’s policies. Rest assured that council members have already started working on how we can best facilitate a deeper community conversation and reviewing our use of force policy.

We understand that these issues deserve a continual conversation with our community. The municipal government, the school district, our businesses, and our residents all deserve that dialog. We look forward to finding new innovative ways to do that, especially during this pandemic.

Nerwinski augmented the statement with a post on his blog.

“I am committed to keep you informed of our efforts as we proceed forward,” he said. “As the municipal manager, my primary responsibilities relate to the operations of our municipal offices. Policy issues that guide the township are clearly within the authority and responsibility of your elected officials. As a result, I will defer to these capable people to lead the community discussion. God bless!”

In his post, he also listed links to the township’s guiding policies on the use of force:

Several days ago I indicated on social media that I would be preparing information on our police department’s orders and policies relating to “use of force” issues. To that end, this article will provide links to important and relevant documents that guide our police officers.

I have received many emails from concerned residents that demanded defunding and reform of our police department in light of the horrific event that took place in Minnesota several weeks ago and the protests that have followed.

This article is provided to concerned residents to assist in their understanding of the police department that serves the community. It is NOT intended as a defense nor is it a COMPLETE response to the concerns raised. It is merely information to incorporate into the overall “community conversation.”

In my post, I did promise that we will closely scrutinize who we are and how we police and look for ways to improve and be better. We promise to LISTEN. To hear the voices of concern about police brutality and racism, and do our part to bring about change for the better for all people.”

Yesterday, our elected officials: Mayor James Kownacki, council members Michael Powers, Cathleen Lewis, Christopher Bobbitt and John Ryan individually met with myself and Police Chief Brian Caloiaro (the mayor attending each meeting) to discuss the current state of our police department, to ask important questions about the policy and procedures followed, to inform us of their concerns, and to determine the areas where there can be improvement.

These officials showed a sincere commitment for reform and to improve community policing. These meetings are a critical first step by them to do what they were elected to do—to advocate on behalf of the residents, and to work to establish policies that improve what we do in service of the community.

First, I believe it is important for all to know and understand that the Gurbir Singh Grewal, the N.J. Attorney General, has been leading the way in N.J. for reform relating to “use of force” and other “policing” issues, and the Lawrence Township Police Department has adopted and implemented his established policies and guidelines regarding these issues.

Here is a link to a recent letter the NJ AG sent to All NJ County Prosecutors in response to the recent events regarding the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Here is the link to the N.J. Attorney General’s Use of Force policy.

Here is the link to Lawrence Township Police Department’s Use of Force policy.

Here is the link to Lawrence Township Police Department’s Use of Force general order.

Here is the link to Lawrence Township Police Department’s Early Warning System that is designed to detect patters and trends before conduct by a police officer escalates into more serious problems.

Here is the link to Lawrence Township Police Department’s Biased Based Policing general order.

Here is the link to Lawrence Township Police Department’s Uniform Traffic Enforcement general order.

I have chosen to not summarize these documents out of concern that a summary would oversimply them, and I may potentially omit a term that may be important to the readers.

I encourage all who have an interest in these matters to thoroughly review the documents to get a full understanding of the orders and policies that presently guide our officers.   Your elected officials (members of the Lawrence Township Council) are committed to meaningfully respond to the outcry of the residents of the community.