New rules: By the end of this year, every law enforcement agency in New Jersey must release the names and records of officers fired or demoted, or suspended for more than five days, for serious disciplinary violations.
“The acts of a few should not tarnish the entire profession across the state or nation and we’ll ultimately let the public decide for themselves on the nature of these allegations. Excessive force, if substantiated and led to a major discipline as far as a suspension goes, that will also be included,” said Col. Patrick Callahan, Superintendent, New Jersey State Police.
State police already release records of major discipline. By mid-July, they will release trooper records going back 20 years. It’ll first notify them in writing. County and local agencies must release current records at least once a year.
Here’s what Attorney General Gurbil Grewal said, responding to protesters throughout the state demanding reforms after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis: “We have years of work left to do to make sure that we promote professionalism, transparency and accountability in law enforcement.”
In a statement, the attorney general said the vast majority of officers serve with honor and astonishing courage, but 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 attorney general is leaving it up to county and local police administrators to release older records of serious discipline if they think that would serve public safety and transparency.
Both the ACLU of New Jersey and the state Policemen’s Benevolent Association support the release of records, but disagree on which ones. The association opposes releasing the historic ones.
“Let’s put these guys on Front Street. You know who the dirty ones are,” said Debra Salters, who last year at a community meeting on the Newark Police Division’s agreement to reform, suggested mandatory psychological evaluation of officers every year. She welcomes the new directive from the attorney general, and said, “We’re not letting this go.” Salters is among those looking for something more.