New Jersey to ID officers with disciplinary violations
New Jersey police must divulge the names of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered Monday.
The state’s top law enforcement official said in a statement that the order would apply going forward to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
Agencies must publicly identify officers who were fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days because of a disciplinary violation, Grewal said. The first lists must be published by Dec. 31.
Officers’ identities previously were not disclosed publicly unless they faced criminal charges, the attorney general said.
“For decades, New Jersey has not disclosed the identities of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations,” Grewal said. “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.”
Grewal announced more stringent disclosures affecting the state police.
The names of troopers who have been disciplined in about 430 cases going back to 2000 will be published by July 15, Grewal said.
Officers with the state Division of Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Commission suspended for disciplinary violations will also be publicized by July 15. The publication will cover disciplinary violations for as far back the agencies’ records go, along with a summary of the misconduct, Grewal said.
Officers will be notified before the release of their names.
The disclosure comes the same month Grewal said he would overhaul guidelines governing how officers use force for the first time in 20 years. Grewal cited the global protests against police violence stemming from the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said Monday that he’s taken part in public forums on policing issues and that he’s talked to officers about “embracing the scrutiny, embracing transparency.”
“It’s also important to note the acts of a few should not tarnish the entire profession,” he added.
Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, was critical of Grewal’s directive. He said that while serious disciplinary violations might sound as if an officer violated the public’s trust, in reality the definition varies town by town.
A uniform violation could be considered serious in some places, Colligan said.
“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,” Colligan said in an emailed statement.
Unlike many states, New Jersey’s attorney general is permitted under state law to direct law enforcement statewide, and legislation isn’t required for him to issue a directive.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he was proud of the policies and changes Grewal was making.
“I think this is good for everybody,” Murphy said. “In the absence of information in life you assume the worst. With information, I think, you get a much clearer sense of the reality.”