Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal applauded the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision allowing for the release of names for law enforcement officers who commit actions that result to “major discipline.”
The directives in question, 2020-5 and 2020-6, were introduced in June 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. They would require that every year, police departments publish lists of officers who were terminated, demoted, or suspended for more than five days.
The effort would be effective from Jan. 1, 2020, and would include all findings of major discipline dating back twenty years.
The only differences in the directives concerned who they would affect; Directive 2020-5 would apply to all law enforcement agencies in the state, while Directive 2020-6 would apply to the State Police and all other agencies with in the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Grewal argued the decision represented the beginning of a “new chapter for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey.”
“By lifting the cloak of secrecy over our state’s police disciplinary process, we are not simply ensuring accountability for those who engage in misconduct; we are also demonstrating that the vast majority of law enforcement officers work hard and play by the rules,” he said.
Court Supports Grewal’s Directives
The New Jersey Supreme Court sided with the Office of the Attorney General in the suit, which was filed by five groups representing state and local law enforcement officers. But the decision allows officers who were disciplined prior to last year can go to a judge to seek to block the public disclosure.
“The court concluded that the Attorney General had the authority to issue the Directives and found that the Directives did not conflict with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) or other authorities relating to the confidentiality of personnel records,” according to a record of the case provided by Office of the Clerk.
The court did note that prior disciplinary agreements often included stipulations that the discipline would remain private; it said that further court cases could help determine whether these should be excluded, but that all officers should expect the names would be released.
NJPBA Hits Back at Decision
The New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA) argued the directives overturned long-standing protections and agreements afforded to law enforcement in the state. New Jersey State PBA President Patrick Colligan called the decision “both frustrating and disappointing.”
Saying the law would make vulnerable “the 99.9% of good men and women” serving in law enforcement, Colligan argued the NJSPBA did not protect bad officers.
“We continue to be disappointed in the Attorney General’s ongoing refusal to meet with us to discuss fairness within police reform as well as his continuing attacks on law enforcement,” he said.