New use-of-force policy for Camden cops emphasizes de-escalation

David Madden
August 26, 2019 - 4:00 am

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio


CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The Camden County Police Department has a new policy on the use of force, formulated with the help of an outside group, and there’s talk that this could serve as a national model. 

The Policing Project at New York University’s School of Law worked to develop the policy, based on a half-dozen core principles.

The goal is to respect human life as much as possible, according to Lt. Kevin Lutz, who oversees departmental training for the 400-member force.

“We’ve looked to create best practices in policing, get as many opinions and as much feedback as we could over the years, and ultimately come up with a use-of-force guide that really is going to set the standard for how use of force is applied within our profession,” Lutz explained.


He concedes, though, that this new policy primarily codifies the way officers have been trained over the last few years to emphasize de-escalation and to use deadly force as a last resort.

“The purpose behind this policy is not to eliminate force altogether,” Lutz added, “but for our officers to make good decisions, use sound judgment, and apply the appropriate amount of force only when it’s necessary.”

Officers have had input into the process to the degree that the head of the police union is on the staff that trains officers on use of force. Putting the policy in writing not only assists in dealing with a cop who may cross the line, but also officially brings the department into compliance with guidelines issued by the state.

Crime statistics provided by the department would suggest the overall approach is working. In 2014, there were 65 excessive force incidents. So far this year, just one.