NEW JERSEY – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck Tuesday announced three statewide law enforcement policies that reinforce New Jersey’s position as a national leader in the policing profession.
- “No-Knock” Warrants. Regulates the application of no-knock warrants in New Jersey to ensure they are used only when necessary to promote officer or civilian safety, and establishes approval and reporting requirements for the rare instances when no-knock warrants are used.
- Right to Record Police Activity. Ensures that the First Amendment’s bounds are as clear as possible—to both civilians and law enforcement alike—with respect to the right to observe, object to, and record police activity.
- Diversity in Law Enforcement Recruiting and Hiring. Provides guidance, per statute, to law enforcement agencies on working towards the goal of reflecting the diversity of the population of the community each agency is charged with protecting, and establishes officer demographic data collection requirements.
“The initiatives announced by the Office of the Attorney General are a tremendous step forward for law enforcement,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “They will build public trust and better reflect the diversity of the communities they protect and serve, underscoring our administration’s commitment to transparency, racial equity, and justice in our policing practices.”
“New Jersey is a national leader on policing issues, and the three policies we are issuing today reaffirm our commitment to excellence,” Bruck said. “But what makes the Garden State special is that we develop policing policies collaboratively, by engaging law enforcement and community members alike, as we work to promote public trust and protect public safety.”
“As our country continues to evolve, New Jersey remains at the forefront of transparent policing by implementing policies that help reinforce the trust between law enforcement and our residents,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Our Troopers are held to the highest of standards, therefore we remain committed to upholding the directives that demonstrate our dedication to the communities we serve.”
Acting Attorney General Bruck issued the following directives and guidelines Tuesday to implement these policies:
AG Directive 2021-12: Regulating “No-Knock” Warrants. This directive provides common-sense regulations on both “no-knock” and “knock-and-announce” warrants that will promote officer and civilian safety.
- Allows for law enforcement officers to request authorization from the court for a no-knock provision only under the following circumscribed conditions—narrower than what is permitted by law—where (i) knocking and announcing will create a reasonable and particularized concern for officer safety or the safety of another person and (ii) a trained tactical team executes the no-knock warrant.
- Requires County Prosecutors, or their senior legal staff designee, to approve any warrant that includes a no-knock provision, as well as review of any no-knock warrant execution by the County Prosecutor’s Office.
- Asks County Prosecutors to track the number of no-knock warrants applied for and authorized by courts in their jurisdiction.
- Establishes a default time period for all warrant executions, in order to avoid the unnecessary execution of warrants in the middle of the night.
- Instructs law enforcement to take reasonable steps to identify the occupants of the premises to be searched, including any children or individuals with known vulnerabilities, prior to warrant execution.
AG Directive 2021-11: First Amendment Right to Observe, Object to, and Record Police Activity. In order to continue building better relationships between communities and police, this Directive outlines as clearly as possible a bystander’s right to observe, object to, and record police activity under the First Amendment, as well as its limitations.
- Outlines a bystander’s right to witness, observe, audio and video record, photograph, comment on, or complain about law enforcement officers conducting official duties in public, as long as the bystander has a legal right to be present where they are.
- Describes actions that officers may not undertake against non-interfering bystanders, such as telling the bystander that recording is not allowed, or demanding identification.
- States that bystanders may not cross a police line simply because they have a recording device, and reminds officers that N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1 continues to prohibit conduct whereby a person purposely obstructs a government function.
- Provides protocols in the narrow circumstances where recording devices may be seized.
AG Guidelines: Promoting Diversity in Law Enforcement Recruiting and Hiring. A 2020 law, N.J.S.A. 52:17B-4.10 (the “Act”), directed the Attorney General to develop guidelines to ensure the Act’s uniform application. The Guidelines include the following:
- Describe the process by which each law enforcement agency in New Jersey, as defined under the Act, shall establish a program to (1) identify underrepresented groups by comparing the population the agency represents to the composition of its officer force, and (2) take action to address any underrepresentation.
- In accordance with the Act, set forth procedures for the collection and reporting of demographic data regarding recruiting, hiring, promoting, and other personnel actions concerning law enforcement officers in New Jersey. The initial reporting date is January 31, 2022.
Although the Guidelines on Law Enforcement Recruiting and Hiring are based on a statute and apply directly to law enforcement officers, the Attorney General’s Office and the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey (CPANJ) are committed to working together and with colleges, law schools, affinity bar organizations, private law firms and other stakeholders to develop effective strategies to recruit and retain diverse prosecutors as well. CPANJ is working with the Attorney General’s Office specifically focused on tracking and collecting data, and developing and implementing best practices for the recruitment and retention of diverse prosecutors.
On Friday, Dec. 10, at 2:00 p.m., Acting Attorney General Bruck will host a public virtual town hall about the newly-issued First Amendment “right to record” policy.