Murphy: Everything on table when it comes to reimagined relationship between police, communities

Gov. Phil Murphy said he was not aware of the particulars of the law granting access to discipline records of New York state’s police officers that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed — but said everything is “on the table” when it comes to New Jersey considering a similar law.

The law, which is strongly opposed by police unions, repeals Section 50a, which allowed law-enforcement agencies to keep an officer’s disciplinary record private unless it was ordered by a court to be released. Many states, including New Jersey, have similar laws in place.

“I’m not familiar with the specific steps that Gov. Cuomo has taken, but I think as we reimagine what law enforcement looks like in the relationship between law enforcement and communities and try to get to a place we’ve never been before, I think about everything needs to be on the table and that would include access — and, without committing to it, that’s got to be included for consideration,” Murphy said

Murphy, speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing, also addressed a state corrections officer being suspended after he took part in a protest that mocked the death of George Floyd.

“The corrections officer was suspended and rightfully so — it’s reprehensible, period,” he said. “There’s a process underway, and, beyond that, let’s let the process play out, but (it’s) completely unacceptable and reprehensible.”

On other law and order fronts, State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said a gathering in Point Pleasant was broken up Tuesday night without incident.

Murphy and Callahan continue to be impressed by the peaceful nature of New Jersey protests and the willingness to abide by executive orders.

Callahan said there have been more than 300 protests, but only 58 arrests. In addition, Callahan said there have been 319 citations for violating executive orders that have risen to an indictable offense. He said there have been 3,371 warnings given out for noncompliance issues.

Other news from the briefing:

The numbers

Murphy announced there were 611 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the state total to 165,346. This is day No. 99 since the first case was reported. There also were 91 additional fatalities, raising the state total to 12,303.

The hospital numbers, as of 10 p.m. Wednesday:

  • In hospitals: 1,701 (fourth straight day under 1,800);
  • In intensive/critical care: 471;
  • On ventilators: 342 (fifth straight day under 400);
  • Admitted: 156;
  • Discharged: 171;
  • Positivity rate: 3.4% (from June 6).

Contact tracing

Murphy said the state has 900 existing contract tracers and hopes to have an additional 1,600 by the end of the month — and is preparing to add as many as 4,000 more, as the situation warrants.

Murphy said residents are not required to give information to tracers — and that he understands why some may be reluctant to in an era of large data collections. He said the state is attempting to hire tracers who will live in the communities they will serve — and that the state will launch a public relations campaign stressing the importance, too.

Murphy also gave the definition of what it means to have “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19: being closer than 6 feet from someone who has COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more.

Doing so may result in getting a call from a tracer.

Personal protective equipment

Callahan said the state still distributes all of the PPE it receives, but also acknowledged it needs to create a stockpile so the state would be better prepared should there be a second wave of COVID-19.

Nursing homes

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the state is hoping to soon allow visitations to nursing homes, but cautions there still is high risk.

“The disease in nursing homes is still there in most of our facilities,” she said. “So, we have to be extremely vigilant when we put out guidance for visitation. We’re looking at what some other states are doing, we’ve identified some guidelines that we’re just not ready to put out yet, but we will be soon.”

The final word

Murphy, aghast at the suggestion the state is lagging behind in the hiring of contract tracers, took a polite shot at the media:

You guys can’t stand success is one observation I’ll make — nothing personal,” he said. “We have the No. 1 per capita testing state in America, we have the among the lowest rates of transmission of any American state, we have a spot positivity rate — and, please God, it stays this way — between 3% and 4%, which means 96-97% percent of the people being tested are negative, and we have 900 people doing contact tracing as we sit here.”

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