AG announces ‘Excellence in Policing’ initiative

TRENTON, NJ — Attorney Gen. Gurbir Grewal announced Dec. 4 a comprehensive package of statewide law enforcement policies designed to ensure New Jersey remains a national leader on policing issues, according to a press release from his office. The policies, known collectively as the “Excellence in Policing” initiative, are intended to enhance public safety and public trust by promoting professionalism, accountability and transparency among New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers.

To achieve these policy objectives, Grewal issued five new statewide law enforcement directives and three letters to law enforcement leaders. The policies address, among other things:

  • Use-of-Force — ensuring independent investigations of use-of-force incidents, police-involved shootings and in-custody deaths by enhancing statewide policies, and launching a six-town pilot program to test the state’s new online use-of-force portal;
  • Internal affairs — setting new rules to ensure objective and timely internal affairs investigations by police departments, with robust oversight by county prosecutors and new rules for coordination with civilian review boards;
  • Disclosure of exculpatory evidence — requiring that all county prosecutors establish policies and procedures for timely disclosure of Brady-Giglio evidence; under Brady-Giglio, when a police officer is called as a witness for a law enforcement agency, the prosecutor must disclose impeachment evidence, meaning any evidence that “casts a substantial doubt upon the accuracy” of the witness testimony;
  • Training and licensing — reinvigorating the Police Training Commission and directing it to develop proposals for revamped training protocols and a police licensure system;
  • Identifying at-risk officers — transitioning from “early warning systems” to more comprehensive, evidence-based “early intervention systems” that incorporate officer resiliency initiatives;
  • Municipal prosecutors — improving the quality of justice in the state’s municipal courts by enhancing oversight of municipal prosecutors; and
  • Office of Public Integrity and Accountability — formally codifying the OPIA, and establishing within OPIA an “Office of Policing Policy” to oversee implementation of the “Excellence in Policing” initiative and develop additional resources, tools and training to assist the state’s law enforcement agencies and officers.

“New Jersey has some of the finest law enforcement officers in the country, and our new initiative will help the Garden State maintain its position as a national model for policing in the 21st century,” Grewal said. “We’re promoting the culture of professionalism, accountability and transparency that are hallmarks of New Jersey’s best law enforcement agencies, and we’re showing the rest of the country how we can build police-community trust while also protecting public safety. Our state’s 36,000 law enforcement officers deserve nothing less.” 

“These policies will ensure that our police officers have the training, support, and supervision they need to meet the highest standards of their profession,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher, which is spearheading many of the reforms. “The vast majority of our officers serve with honor and integrity, and they deserve a system that highlights their good work and roots out those who dishonor the profession.”

“The law enforcement community is comprised of men and women who serve as prosecutors, undercover officers, detectives, uniformed boots on the ground, just to name a few, but one common denominator among these individuals who followed the call of duty is their unwavering dedication to providing the citizens of New Jersey the most professional and compassionate service in the country,” said Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “The ‘Excellence in Policing’ initiative will further aid New Jersey law enforcement with maintaining this commitment by establishing cutting-edge training protocols and early intervention systems, which will ensure that New Jersey continues to be a national model for law enforcement.”

“New Jersey has a strong law enforcement community with many outstanding prosecutors and police officers,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende said. “These new policy initiatives build on that strength with statewide reforms that will further promote trust in our police and faith in our justice system. We will work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure that we achieve the critical goals of the ‘Excellence in Policing’ initiative.”

The Attorney General’s Office engaged a wide range of stakeholders throughout the policy development process, including community advocates and law enforcement leaders.