New Jersey Attorney General Orders Law Enforcement Agencies to Identify Officers with Disciplinary Violations

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued an order directing all law enforcement agencies acting within the state’s purview to publicly identify officers who commit serious disciplinary violations by Dec. 31.

The order applies to local, county, and state law enforcement agencies to annually publish a list of officers with serious disciplinary violations, including those fired, demoted, or suspended more than five days in connection with an incident.

Previously, information on officers who were subject to discipline were not generally made public. The directive will permit law enforcement agencies to retroactively identified officers with a history of discipline.

“These cases should not be left as just a passing synopsis in the back of an annual report. They deserve to be seen. They deserve to be out in the open. This is a tremendous step forward for transparency,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Collaboration with New Jersey State Police

“Today, we end the practice of protecting the few to the detriment of the many. Today, we recommit ourselves to building a culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement,” said Attorney General Grewal.

The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) will publish a list of all state troopers who committed major disciplinary violations over the past twenty years no later than July 15. Attorney General Grewal worked with NJSP Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan to make the action a reality.

“We cannot build trust with the public until we’re candid about the shortcoming of our own officers,” said Col. Callahan. 

Disclosing Names

The decision to release the listing is in line with NJSP’s existing annual report which summarizes disciplinary matters involving state troopers. To date, NJSP imposed major discipline in 430 cases.

Since 2000, NJSP’s Office of Professional Standards has published the listing, providing a brief summary of each disciplinary action against a state trooper which resulted in a termination, demotion, or suspension of more than five days. However, the current report does not publish the names of the officers.

Two law enforcement agencies operating under the Department of Law & Public Safety will publish similar lists by the same date, including the Division of Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Commission.

Building on Previous Actions

To effectuate the change, Grewal issued Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2020-5, which revised Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures, a document which governs the internal disciplinary process of the state’s law enforcement agencies.

It expands upon internal affairs reforms first issued by Grewal six months ago as part of the Excellence in Policing initiative. In AG Directive 2019-5, Grewal strengthened oversight of discipline in law enforcement.

Specifically, it allowed for the files to be shared with civilian review boards to establish procedural safeguards. It also required the publication of a synopsis summarizing disciplinary actions.

‘Step Forward’

Grewal and Murphy expanded the Excellence in Police initiative in June in response to the Black Lives Matter movement on June 2. Additionally, they issued guidance June to prohibit the use of chokeholds, carotid artery neck restraints, or similar tactics.

One June 12, Grewal issued additional details regarding New Jersey’s “Use of Force Policy.” The plan will see community listening sessions in all 21 counties.

“This is a step forward for law enforcement, as well, to help generate greater faith among the communities in which our officers serve, that no one will get away with committing serious disciplinary violations,” stated Murphy. “This builds on the Attorney General’s previous work to change the culture of policing across our state, including his directive from 10 days ago banning the use of chokeholds in all but the most limited situations.”

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