NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Gurbir Grewal Monday 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, 2020.
Until now, the identities of officers subject to discipline have generally not been disclosed to the public unless they have faced criminal charges.
The 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 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, 2020.
“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.”
“We cannot build trust with the public unless we’re candid about the shortcomings of our own officers,” Callahan said. “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.”
Action by New Jersey State Police
Since at least 2000, NJSP’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) has published an annual report summarizing disciplinary matters involving State Troopers. Each report includes, among other things, a “synopsis of major discipline,” which briefly summarizes each disciplinary action against a State Trooper resulting in termination, demotion, or suspension of more than five days, but excludes the name of the State Trooper.
Since 2000, NJSP has imposed major discipline in approximately 430 cases. This includes dozens of State Troopers who received suspensions of more than 180 days, as well as a number of State Troopers whose employment was terminated as a result of their misconduct.
The identities of these State Troopers will be published no later than July 15, 2020. Prior to publication, each of the individuals whose names will be revealed will receive notice in writing.
Also on July 15, 2020, 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.
Statewide Release of Officers’ Names
Grewal’s statewide order requires all state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to release, on at least an annual basis, the identities of law enforcement officers who have been terminated, demoted, or suspended for more than five days. Law enforcement agencies will be required to publish their first annual list no later than December 31, 2020.
To effectuate this change, Grewal issued Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive (“AG Directive”) No. 2020-5, which revises Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures (IAPP), a document that governs the internal disciplinary process for New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies. By law, every law enforcement agency in the state is required to adopt policies consistent with IAPP.
This 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, 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.
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,” Grewal said. “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.”
“These commonsense measures ensure that New Jersey remains at the forefront of policing reform in this country. And we’re not done yet. We will continue evaluating other steps to promote transparency, accountability, and trust in law enforcement. It’s just the right thing to do,” Grewal said.
Building Public Trust
This 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. Among other recent announcements:
- On June 2, 2020, Governor Murphy and Grewal announced a new phase of the Excellence in Policing initiative, which included five actions: expansion of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training; support for statewide licensing of police officers; further development of the statewide “Use of Force Portal”; plans to update the statewide “Use of Force Policy” for the first time in two decades; and the creation of a “Incident Response Team” in the Division on Civil Rights.
- On June 5, 2020, Grewal issued guidance prohibiting all New Jersey law enforcement officers from using “chokeholds, carotid artery neck restraints, or similar tactics on any individual, except in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life.” The guidance further noted that “because these tactics create a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm,” officers who cause a subject’s death or injury while performing them “face potential criminal liability.”
- On June 12, 2020, Grewal provided additional details about plans to revise New Jersey’s “Use of Force Policy,” including plans to host community listening sessions in all 21 counties. In addition, OAG launched a website (nj.gov/oag/force) to collect the public’s comments about proposed revisions to the policy.