Report: Black NJ residents given a harder time during COVID lockdown
⚫ ACLU analyzed enforcement of a stay-at-home executive order from March 2020
⚫ Black residents were disproportionately stopped and penalized, the report says
⚫ Advocates want the findings to act as a catalyst for change
Police in New Jersey were more likely to stop and punish Black residents over white residents in the face of COVID-19 lockdown orders in 2020, according to a new report.
In the report released on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said enforcement patterns during the first few months of the pandemic's impact on New Jersey reflect racial inequality that's ingrained in the state and in the country.
"Policing the Pandemic: COVID-19 and Lockdown Enforcement in New Jersey" highlights data related to police enforcement following a "stay at home" order that was announced by Gov. Phil Murphy in March 2020.
COVID lockdown enforcement statistics
According to the 21-page report, Black New Jerseyans accounted for 50% of all individual stops related to the executive order, which lasted until June 9. Gatherings of any kind were banned by the executive order, and non-essential businesses were closed.
The report finds Black residents were over-represented in stops for executive order enforcement at a rate four times higher than their relative population. Black individuals comprise more than 13% of the state's overall population.
In Trenton, where just 30% of the population is Black, every police record that included race information involved a Black person. In Elizabeth, 92% of all police actions involved Black people, while the race made up 20% of the population.
And in communities where Black people make up less than 12% of the population, there were no stops recorded at all, the report says.
Enforcement actions as a result of a stop also disproportionately impacted Black residents, according to the report. Black individuals were on the receiving end of 81% of the stops involving a summons or arrest.
"The results of our report are dismaying," said report author Karen Thompson. "COVID pulled off the blinders around these well-familiar inequities that led to communities of color experiencing high rates of infection of death."
Police stops of white residents were eight times more likely to have no punitive action taken compared to Black residents, and 10 times more likely compared to Latino residents, the report says.
Thompson said a handful of jurisdictions bucked the trend and were "fantastic" about policing fairly during the pandemic. Police in Lyndhurst, Woodbridge, Hillside and North Brunswick acted to "truly protect and serve the communities," Thompson said.
ACLU-NJ said their report clearly shows that racial discrimination in policing is "far from addressed" and is even deeper in times of duress.
"Racial discrimination does not take breaks, even within the throes of a global pandemic," the report says. "Our hope is that awareness may serve as a guide to change and provide instruction for improvement."
When reached for comment on the report, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General said the office knows that the pandemic disproportionately impacted people of color in many ways.
"Our office is reviewing the findings of the ACLU’s report issued Monday as we continue to work to eliminate discrimination in New Jersey and make our state safer and fairer for all," the spokesperson said.
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