Police chief presents transparency initiatives
By Lisa Brody
Bloomfield Township Police Chief Phil Langmeyer presented a series of initiatives the department is undertaking to be a better department, and informed the board of trustees at their meeting on Monday, May 24, in an effort at transparency to the board and community.
“Over the last year, we know there has been a lot of discussion about police and police transparency. We want to let you know what Bloomfield Township has been doing about it,” Langmeyer said.
“We've all heard about transparency and law enforcement. We've all prided ourselves on our transparency, but we can do better. We turned to the internet to see where we could improve,” said captain Dan Edwards. He said on the township's website there is a page now on police transparency with thousands of pages of data, annual reviews, their accreditation report and policies, including use of force.
“The chief deserves all the credit for this,” Edwards said. “His leadership and vision is second to none in getting us accredited and with transparency. You see all our calls for service, our arrests for the last three years, citations we wrote, arrests, they have demographics. It's changing on an hourly basis.”
“Police reforms are nothing new. We want to be ahead of the game. Accreditation is first. We were accredited February 2, 2020, long before the demands in the country for police reforms. We were just reaccredited in our annual review. They make sure they're the nation's best practices and they're updated. We have to prove we do them.
“We prohibit 'no knock' search warrants unless they're approved by a judge or the chief. We have completely banned choke holds unless it's a matter of life and death. We have never trained these or endorsed them,” he said. “The duty to intervene policy – we've always had them in our rules and regulations, not just for use of force, it's for all times. We have changed our use of force reporting policy when an officer draws a pistol.”
He said they evaluate every employee, with efforts at de-escalation emphasized, twice-a-year training, and a much greater emphasis and recruitment, hiring and training regardless of sex, nationality and color.
“We have a committee to recruit a more diverse applicant pool,” he said. “It's very difficult. We're struggling. We can't find people who want to be police officers.”
He said one larger hindrance is their requirement for all officers to have a bachelor's degree before academy training, which not all departments do. “I don't want to see it go anywhere. A college educated officer is 40 percent less likely to use force in any form and 30 percent less likely to discharge a firearm. California is mandating it for all officers 18 -24 years of age. We've been doing it since the '70s.”
He said training in the department is a career-long process, which also allows people to move through their career so they continue to grow.
“We view ourselves as community guardians, not warriors. We work with the community to address problems and use arrests as a last resort,” Langmeyer said.