New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office photo)

Urban News Staff Reports

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal ordered all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to begin publicly identifying officers who commit serious disciplinary violations.

Under the order, going forward every state, county, and local law enforcement agency in New Jersey will be required to annually publish a list of officers who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation, with the first list to be published no later than December 31.

Until now, the identities of officers subject to discipline have generally not been disclosed to the public unless they have faced criminal charges.

Today’s Directive also permits law enforcement agencies to go further and identify officers who have committed serious disciplinary violations in the past. For instance, Grewal, in conjunction with Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), announced that NJSP will publish a list of all State Troopers who have committed major disciplinary violations over the past twenty years. The historical list will be released publicly no later than July 15.

The order comes in the wake of the continued outrage over the police killing of Black, unarmed George Floyd in Minneapolis and the the recent police killing of Black, unarmed Maurice Gordon in New Jersey.

“For decades, New Jersey has not disclosed the identities of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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.”

“We cannot build trust with the public unless we’re candid about the shortcomings of our own officers,” said Colonel Callahan. “By releasing the names of State Troopers who committed serious disciplinary violations, we are continuing the long, hard work of earning and maintaining the trust of the communities we serve

The identities of these State Troopers will be published no later than July 15. Prior to publication, each of the individuals whose names will be revealed will receive notice in writing.

Also on July 15, the other two law enforcement agencies in the Department of Law & Public Safety – the Division of Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Commission – will publish similar lists both identifying any law enforcement officers who were suspended for serious disciplinary violations as far back as the agencies’ records go and providing a summary of that misconduct. Those officers will likewise receive notice prior to the release of their names.

The order expands upon internal affairs reforms issued by the Attorney General six months ago. In December 2019, as part of the Excellence in Policing initiative, Attorney General Grewal issued AG Directive 2019-5, known as the “Internal Affairs Directive,” which marked one of the most substantial revisions to IAPP since its initial publication in 1991.

Among many other changes, the Internal Affairs Directive strengthened oversight of internal affairs, and allowed for internal affairs files to be shared with civilian review boards that establish certain procedural safeguards. Importantly, the Directive also revised IAPP to require that each law enforcement agency publish on its website an annual “synopsis” summarizing all disciplinary complaints against the agency’s officers resulting in a fine or suspension of ten days or more, but did not at the time require the disclosure of the identity of those officers.

Attorney General Grewal’s new order creates an affirmative obligation for law enforcement agencies to identify the officers subject to serious discipline in their annual synopses. This requirement is prospective, but does not prevent law enforcement agencies from identifying officers previously subject to serious discipline if they conclude that doing so would serve public safety and transparency.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officers in New Jersey serve with honor and astonishing courage under extremely difficult circumstances,” said Grewal. “Most go through their entire careers without engaging in conduct that warrants a major disciplinary action against them. But their good work is easily undermined—and quickly forgotten—whenever an officer breaches the public’s trust and dishonors the entire profession. The likelihood of such misbehavior increases when officers believe they can act with impunity, and it decreases when officers know that their misconduct will be subject to public scrutiny.”

The announcement is the latest step in Grewal’s ongoing effort to strengthen trust between law enforcement and community and builds on his December 2019 launch of the Excellence in Policing initiative.

In a statement, The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association (SBA) president Patrick Colligan said Grewal’s order doesn’t treat police officers equally. Colligan has directed legal counsel for the State PBA to review the policy to ensure that officer rights are protected

“The Attorney General’s Directive is far too broad and it treats all officers unequally,” Colligan said.  “While we have pledged to work with the Attorney General on enhancing our profession this new policy does not recognize those arbitrary differences.  The Policy is going to smear officers unfairly who have not violated the public trust and I would respectfully suggest it needs to go back to the drawing board.”

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