AG issues statewide order requiring identification of officers who commit serious disciplinary violations

TRENTON, NJ — Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has 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 Dec. 31, 2020.

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

“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.”

The June 15 directive also permits law enforcement agencies to go further and identify officers who have committed serious disciplinary violations in the past. For instance, Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, has pledged to release a list of all state troopers who have committed major disciplinary violations during the past 20 years; the list will be released by July 15.

“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.”

Since at least 2000, NJSP’s Office of Professional Standards has published an annual report summarizing disciplinary matters involving state troopers. Each report includes, among other items, 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.

Also on July 15, the other two law enforcement agencies in the Department of Law and Public Safety — the Division of Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Commission — will publish similar lists 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.

To effectuate this change in reporting throughout the state, Grewal issued Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2020-5, which revises Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures, 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.

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,” he continued. “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.”