The rally Obama referred to was one held last November in support of former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly voiced baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election he loss was rigged. Ciattarelli has said after attending the rally that he didn’t know the event’s theme.
He also penned in a letter to Obama preceding the first Black president’s recent speech that Murphy isn’t doing enough to help Black residents. “Sadly, under Governor Murphy, hope and opportunity have been sorely lacking,” Ciattarelli wrote. “If I am fortunate enough to be elected by the people of our great state on November 2, I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss how we could work together to improve the lives of all our citizens and raise the level of discourse in our politics, as well.”
The Republican has given little indication that such discourse would end in actual change for the Black community he now alleges to be thinking of. Even with all his efforts to appease police, Ciattarelli couldn’t earn the endorsement of the state’s largest police union, the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, which by the way endorsed Murphy during his first campaign and opted not to after the governor marched hand-in-hand with Black Lives Matter protesters.
Ciattarelli wrote on his campaign site that he wants to restore respect for law enforcement and protect police pensions. He laid out plans to:
- Oppose the release of internal affairs and personnel records going back decades – as well as going forward – and restore long-standing protections afforded to law enforcement
- Oppose Civilian Review Boards with or without subpoena power; Local governing bodies in executive session are the appropriate domain for all disciplinary cases to be heard
- Oppose eliminating ‘Qualified Immunity’ and mandatory ‘Use of Force’ reporting when a firearm is NOT discharged
- Fix “Bail Reform” loopholes that currently allow violent and repeat offenders to walk free
- Support reforms that expand Community Policing, make it easier to dismiss bad officers, recruit more women and persons of color, and enhance cultural competency training and professional development
Because it bears translation, “community policing” has many different definitions. George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch captain in Florida before he shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin after deeming him a “suspicious person” in a 911 call on Feb. 26, 2012.
Eight years later, a text message TMZ obtained from an unidentified police officer revealed that Georgia police actually encouraged Gregory McMichael, the former cop and prosecutor’s investigator, to play pretend cop for the coastal Georgia neighborhood of Satilla Shores. McMichael’s son, Travis, went on to shoot and kill Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was jogging in the area on Feb. 23, 2020. Travis, who along with his father have been charged with murder, accused Arbery of trying to break into a home under construction.
These alleged community police are doing no favors to Black communities, but it isn’t stopping Republicans like Ciattarelli from trying to rebrand vigilantes as positive forces in Black communities.
I can only hope Murphy was offering a counter definition when he spoke at a briefing last June. He was responding to a call from activists to defund police, or reallocate a portion of police budgets to fund preventative, social, and mental health services, following the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. “We’ve tried to make the investments in communities, community policing, to lift up communities, whether it’s education investments or health care investments,” Murphy said. “I recognize the passion right now on the notion of defunding police. To me, it’s, ‘What’s the ultimate end state? What are we trying to get to?’”
The governor has worked to distance himself from defund the police branding and pledged not to gut police budgets—a more sound political strategy according to Obama. “It’s less about what you’re doing with law enforcement than it is: What are you doing with the surrounding community investments?” Murphy said last September. “You know, forget about what you say, where you put your money, is that where your mouth is?”
Where Ciattarelli doesn’t go beyond the usual GOP pro-law enforcement stance, Murphy laid out ways in which he has actually prioritized criminal justice reform benefitting Black communities including:
- Ending a historically unjust approach to marijuana and legalizing adult-use cannabis;
- Establishing the nation’s most progressive expungement law;
- Restoring voting rights to those on probation or parole;
- Requiring the Attorney General’s Office to handle investigations for all law enforcement-involved deaths, also known as an “independent prosecutor law;”
- Ending mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses both prospectively and retroactively;
- Increasing flexibility for juveniles facing criminal sentences;
- Banning solitary confinement;
- Expanding the requirement of body-worn cameras to every patrol law enforcement officer in New Jersey and mandating the release of body camera footage; and
- Implementing the first broad-scale reforms to the state’s use-of-force policy in a generation.
Obama said during the first day of early in-person voting in New Jersey that he supports Murphy because of his actions. The former president pointed to Murphy’s record in signing into law “the most sweeping equal pay legislation in America” and in raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour, up from $8.60 an hour when he took office in 2018.
“As governor, he’s worked to build a stronger and a fairer economy, an economy that works for every New Jersey family, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” Obama said.
The equal pay legislation Murphy signed in 2018 amends the state Law Against Discrimination “to make it a prohibited employment practice for employers to discriminate against an employee who is a member of a protected class,” according to Murphy’s office. “Employers will not be able to pay rates of compensation, including benefits, less than the rate paid to employees not of the protected class for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite skill, effort and responsibility,” the governor’s office wrote.
The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which was named in honor of former State Senator Diane Allen who was a victim of bias, “also prohibits employers from taking reprisals against employees for discussing their pay with others – and provides for three-times the monetary damages for a violation,” the governor’s office wrote. It added: “Furthermore, the aggrieved employee may obtain relief for up to six years of back pay and it allows courts to award treble damages for violations of the law.”
The governor said this of the new law in a news release: “From our first day in Trenton, we acted swiftly to support equal pay for women in the workplace and begin closing the gender wage gap. Today, we are sending a beacon far and wide to women across the Garden State and in America – the only factors to determine a worker’s wages should be intelligence, experience and capacity to do the job.”
Obama said Murphy has been a supporter of his since “back when people could not pronounce my name,” and he’s “been busy” restoring funding cut for Planned Parenthood and increasing taxes on the wealthy. His opponent wants to implement a school funding formula that takes money “away from Black and brown communities” and cuts taxes on the wealthy, Obama said.
“He wants to go backwards,” the former president added.