The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association isn’t thrilled about a new directive requiring police departments to publish information about disciplined officers.
“The State PBA has for decades fought to make New Jersey’s law enforcement officers the most professional and best trained in the nation,” NJSPBA President Pat Colligan said. “While we too are angered when police officers abuse their power, we also believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally under the law. Police officers especially. Unfortunately, the Attorney General’s ‘Major Discipline’ Directive does not treat every officer equally.”
The directive, issued Monday by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, would require every state, local and county law enforcement agency to publish at least once every year a list of officers who were fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days because of a violation.
The move comes amid weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned his neck under a knee for almost nine minutes.
“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 police union fears the directive might be applied unevenly across the hundreds of police departments across the state.
“While the term ‘major discipline’ sounds like an officer has severely violated the public trust, in reality police officer discipline wildly differs from town to town,” Colligan said. “Major discipline in some places could be handed down for a uniform violation. The Attorney General’s Directive is far too broad and it treats all officers unequally.”
While the directive mentions “major discipline,” it explicitly calls on departments to release information about disciplinary matters only if they result in termination, reduction of rank or a suspension exceeding five days.
Such disciplinary measures are taken after use of excessive force, racially derogatory language and criminal violations.
“The Policy is going to smear officers unfairly who have not violated the public trust and I would respectfully suggest it needs to go back to the drawing board,” Colligan said. “I have directed Legal Counsel for the State PBA to review the policy to ensure that officer rights are protected.”