June 23, 2020: Metuchen is forming a commission to study the police department’s use of force policies as part of a broader, national push to push back against law enforcement violence and racism.
Mayor Jonathan Busch announced the formation of the commission at the board meeting Monday. The commission will be led by Rev. Ronald Owens, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.
“We’re grateful that here in Metuchen our police department is one of the best in the state with respect to its record, the statistics show it as well, and certainly when you compare it locally to other departments, there’s not even a comparison,” Busch said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t still look at ourselves and take a hard look at what we do.”
As part of the effort, Busch signed the “Mayor’s Pledge” from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of former President Barack Obama’s Foundation. The pledge commits signers to review use of force policies, engage the community by including a range of perspectives as part of the review, make the findings public while seeking feedback and ultimately, reform use of force policies.
Other details of the commission were not available. Busch said other members of the commission, as well as its specific focus, will be disclosed over the next few weeks.
Metuchen is forming the commission as the nation takes a hard look at its law enforcement and the disproportionate violence visited by police on the black community.
The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck sparked nationwide protests. Floyd and other deaths such as Breonna Taylor has spurred hard questions about how much force is appropriate, especially when it comes to unarmed people.
Owens and Metuchen police Chief David Irizarry did not return requests for comment Tuesday.