TRENTON, NJ - An appeals court has ruled that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal can release the names of all law enforcement officers who have received major professional discipline in the state, a plan that was announced this past summer following widespread national protests for police reform and social justice after the death of George Floyd. The court decided that the Attorney General can resume his directives of amending statewide rules for internal investigation within police departments and imposing additional requirements for law enforcement agencies.
Countering the AG’s directive, multiple New Jersey police unions petitioned against the decision. According to the appeal, 36,000 active and retired law enforcement officers contended the Attorney General’s decision, arguing this was in violation of an executive order which protects the personal records of public employees.
After reviewing the directives and hearing oral arguments from activists, the court ruled that Grewal was acting within his authority to release the names of disciplined officers and change internal investigation policies.
“The erosion of confidence in our law enforcement agencies is a serious problem, and it is enough that the Attorney General, New Jersey's chief law enforcement officer tasked with the general supervision of criminal justice in our state, has determined that publishing the names of officers incurring major discipline for misconduct will increase public trust in those agencies and make them more accountable to the communities they serve,” the appeal court’s decision reads.
The first directive requires the public disclosure of the identity of officers who have committed serious disciplinary violations. The identity of any officer who was terminated, reduced in rank, or suspended for more than five days shall be made public on all police department websites. Department’s will also provide a summary of the transgressions that lead to police being reprimanded. The first reports will be available by December 31st, 2020.
The second directive requires the disclosure of any officer who has committed any serious misconduct since the year 2000. According to the AG, this disclosure is to improve the culture of accountability in law enforcement agencies and to identify any police unit with a history of misconduct.
"Today’s decision marks a new day for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a press release, “It is time to stop protecting the few to the detriment of the many, and it is time to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve."