TRENTON, NJ - Mayor Andre Sayegh won’t be releasing the names of all current or former officers who have been fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation in the past 20 years. At least not yet.
On Wednesday, in a decision that the New Jersey State PBA, as well as Paterson PBA Local 1 and Paterson SOA Local 1, the two unions that represent the City’s police, said “pleased” them, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) called for a halt to the order Sayegh made on June 16.
Sayegh’s announcement came less than a day after New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unveiled a new directive requiring hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the state to reveal the names of cops who have been reprimanded or fired, and was due to be implemented by July 15.
Echoing their initial concerns with the manner in which Grewal’s order was to be carried out locally, the leadership for the three unions lamented that “the public has been led to believe that issues involving ‘major discipline’ are serious violations of the public,” when, in fact, that term was misleading.
Disciplinary actions for more than five days, thus necessitating the offending officer to be named, can be handed out for uniform violations, loss of equipment or violations of departmental rules that have nothing to do with keeping bad cops off the streets, the unions said. Going back 20 years, or releasing old files, they continued, fails to consider officers who have used the discipline to “learn and improve themselves as professionals.”
“Releasing 20 years of misleading data about officers who may have long ago retired or active officers with a stellar record since their discipline serves only to smear the officers and drive a wedge between the police and the public.”
“We don’t want to protect bad police officers,” Alex Cruz, President of PBA Local 1 said initially, a statement the unions doubled down on Wednesday. “But we can’t put good police officers in danger.”
“Releasing information from an officer’s personnel file should involve a measured approach rather than a blanket document dump that does not tell a complete story about an officer or his or her ability to serve the public honorably.”
In response to the setback Sayegh said that his directive was aimed at “offering full transparency to residents at a time when trust is needed more than ever between civilians and law enforcement.”
Despite it being a “difficult choice” which he knew wouldn’t please everyone, Sayegh said that he believed he had to make it towards the “greatest good for local residents.’
“I maintain that I am on the right side of this issue and I look forward to continued work that will bring our community together.”
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