Police In Newark Credit De-Escalation Program For Not Firing A Shot In 2020

We all know that 2020 was a year like no other. But for police officers in Newark, New Jersey, it wasn't just a year of upheaval and pandemic — it was also a year that would test the department's commitment to an experiment in how they police their community.

Two years ago, Newark's police initiated a new de-escalation program, and in 2020, the department's officers passed the test with flying colors.

For the entirety of 2020, not a single Newark police officer had to fire a single shot while on duty.

And as Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose told News 12 New Jersey, 2020 was the toughest of his 34 years of service. He noted that that included a tense summer with the streets filled with protesters following the death of George Floyd.

"We had protests, and they tried to take over one of our precincts," Ambrose said.

Sadly, Newark police did lose six members in 2020.

All due to COVID-19, however, not violence. "We lost six police officers and going to six funerals, it all wears on you," Ambrose said.

"It was the unknown. It was the unknown that you didn’t know with this disease that you were coming here every day, and these police officers and firefighters going out there, and we didn't know," he added.

But overall, crime rates were down in Newark.

The crime rate dropped 6% compared to 2019, News 12 reported, while homicides remained unchanged at 51 and non-fatal shootings rose.

However, despite encounters with armed suspects, police managed to take 496 illegal guns off the streets, a 7% increase, without firing a shot.

Ambrose says he's proud of how officers handled themselves during a trying year.

"I'm proud of the men and women of Newark police division who took the guns off the street this year. Didn't fire a shot, came to work during a pandemic, arrested people with guns during the pandemic," he told News 12.

Ambrose added that it all showed that the de-escalation program was working.

"This is proof-positive that our de-escalation training is highly effective. Our officers have embraced de-escalation training and are actively employing this resource when engaging with the community," he said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Unfortunately, Newark police's string of encounters without firing a shot ended shortly after the calendar flipped.

As WABC reported, Newark police fatally shot a suspect just after midnight on New Year's Day while responding to shots fired.

h/t: News 12 New Jersey