Lawrence Township police chief committed to building community partnerships in wake of Tyre Nichols beating death

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In the wake of the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis, Tenn., police officers, Lawrence Township Police Chief Christopher Longo assured Lawrence residents that he is committed to bringing out the best in Lawrence police officers through supervision and training.

Memphis officials released video footage of the Jan. 7 incident, taken from police officers’ body-worn cameras and surveillance cameras on Jan. 27. Five police officers allegedly converged on Nichols and beat him. He had been stopped by police for what they alleged was reckless driving, according to published reports in The New York Times and other newspapers.

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Nichols was hospitalized and died three days later, according to reports. The five police officers were fired from the Memphis Police Department. They were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.

Longo said the videos showed the five police officers “taking deliberate action and making conscious choices during the motor vehicle stop,” such as beating and kicking Nichols. They will all be held accountable under the law, he said.

“One of my most important goals is building a true partnership with residents, based on mutual trust and respect. When police encounters occur, such as the one that resulted in Nichols’ death, community partnerships with local police departments can become strained,” Longo said.

He further said, “the actions of a few police officers impact the reputation, trust and respect for all officers.”

“There are more than 800,000 police officers nationwide who act professionally and with integrity and respect for the oath of office that they took when they were sworn in,” he said.

Longo noted that the Lawrence Township Police Department has been deemed to have met the highest standards of policing in New Jersey, following a review by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP).

NJSACOP reviewed the Lawrence Township Police Department’s policies and practices recently, and awarded accreditation to the police department, Longo said, noting a number of training sessions his officers go through.

Lawrence police officers receive training in de-escalation tactics on a regular basis. They attend Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics training, which teaches officers how to manage volatile situations, he said.

The officers are trained in Active Bystandership for Police Officers, which teaches them how to intervene to prevent another police officer’s misconduct and to help prevent another officer from making a mistake.

They also receive training in how to handle mental health and crisis situations, Longo said.

All instances of use-of-force by Lawrence police officers are reported to a statewide “Use of Force” portal within 24 hours of using force against a civilian. The reports also are reviewed by three levels of supervision, including himself as the police chief, Longo said.

The Lawrence Township Police Department also monitors officers for early warning signs of potential officer stress and for any signs of increased aggression by officers, Longo said.

Longo said he is proud of the professionalism, compassion and empathy displayed by Lawrence police officers. Having the community’s trust is key to the success of the police department’s partnership with the community, he said.

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