N.J. conference aims to improve police community relations

WESTAMPTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- Improving the relationship between the public and law enforcement was the goal of a conference Friday in New Jersey.

A taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity and can stop a suspect in his tracks. But when is it okay for police to use these devices? That was just one of the topics covered in Westhampton during a community summit with police and prosecutors.

The goal was to educate community leaders on the use of force, procedures, and how investigations are handled when there's a police-involved shooting.

In an effort to open the lines of communication, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office hosted faith-based groups, educators, and others who watched demonstrations of tasers and body cameras. They also learned that when there's a police-involved shooting in New Jersey it must be investigated by an outside agency.

Geri Cole-Brown, from the Nesbit Center Kids Clubhouse, says, "This kind of information needs to be out in the public and we need to be able to understand their side and they need to understand also the community side."

And Rev. Chris Turner of the Sunset Rd. Baptist Church tells us, "They have a job to do and we have to respect that they have to keep the peace. This forum I think was designed so that we can have that peace. We got to have a dialogue with one another."

Given the current tensions between law enforcement and the public nationwide, prosecutor Bob Bernardi says forming closer relationships with local leaders is a necessity.

Bernardi explains, "If there's a problem we feel will be able to pick up the phone, call them up and try to calm the community if there is, God forbid, one of these racially charged shootings."

The Attorney General has ordered summits like this be held all over the state in an effort to improve relations between police and the public.
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