New Brunswick, NJ-The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey is a statewide civil rights organization and advocacy group for Latinos. In 2008 we formed the Civil Rights Protection Project to monitor New Jersey policing activities. “Twelve years later we are having the same conversation on policing, except with a different Attorney General,” said Martin Perez, President Emeritus and Chairman of LLANJ.

As the nation reflects about the actions of police officers in Minneapolis and the death of George Floyd, we stand together with leaders in the African-American community denouncing police brutality. Our focus is how New Jersey can strengthen relations in communities of color with police and hold police
accountable. LLANJ has led and collaborated on peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience on police abuses and will continue to do so.

We maintain vast databases of citizen complaints and police uses of force. We have studied these
issues from small towns like Penns Grove and Vineland, to cities like Jersey City, Elizabeth, and Atlantic
City. In sharing our findings with local, county and state officials the repeated theme was that chiefs and
elected officials would do more to hold police officers accountable and get them better training. For 20
years of statewide use of force reporting, Latinos were not identified on reports. Police chiefs missed the
opportunity to recognize cultural differences, language barriers and an inherent fear of police by
immigrant communities. That simply needs to change, and we need to be counted.

Over the weekend, New Jerseyans of all races and ethnicities united and held peaceful demonstrations in New Brunswick, Atlantic City and Newark. Last night, protesters demonstrated peacefully for hours in Asbury Park in memory of Mr. Floyd. Police officials knelt and prayed with protesters. By all accounts, it was a safe and successful exchange of views and messaging. That was until police there forcefully attempted to disperse participants. “What we witnessed in Asbury Park by abusive police is precisely the conduct that has been fueling a week of national unrest. This is the definition of a police riot,” said Richard Rivera a retired police officer and Project Director at LLANJ. “In all my years as a civil rights leader, I have never seen something so peaceful and just, turn into chaos and mayhem because of agitated police here in our own state,” Martin Perez followed up.

To top off the deplorable exhibit of police force, agitation and misuse of authority, a Latino journalist, Gustavo Martinez Contreras was arrested. Videos of police actions are deeply troubling. “It is about time Attorney General Grewal stopped with union pandering and lip service, and got real about police abuses in our state,” Rivera concluded.

The Latino Leadership Alliance membership includes police officers and their associations. We support police in our communities that protect our lives, our property and our liberties. We do not support abusive or unconstitutional policing. The Attorney General needs to direct county prosecutors to do their jobs and oversee local police. LLANJ demands that the police officers and troopers in Asbury Park shown on video abusing their authority and abusing people last night, be removed from public contact while an independent investigation is conducted. “Unfortunately, the public will have to wait for Asbury Park police to investigate themselves for what occurred. That too needs to change and New Jersey needs strong civilian review and participation of police conduct,” Rivera said regarding a flawed internal affairs process.

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