The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today that all local police departments in the state will be obligated to publish the names of police officers who were fired, demoted or suspended for at least five days on an annual basis.
The top court also ruled that personnel records and internal affairs reports going back decades must also be released.
The unanimous ruling found that police officers with major discipline violations prior to 2020 can ask a judge to block a full disclosure from the public.
Police unions had tried to block directives issued by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal following the 2020 murder of George Floyd allowing the release of names.
The justices found that the attorney general “had the authority to issue the Directives, which satisfy the deferential standard of review for final agency decisions.”
“The Directives are designed to enhance public trust and confidence in law enforcement, to deter misconduct, to improve transparency and accountability in the disciplinary process, and to identify repeat offenders who may try to move from one sensitive position to another,” the court wrote in a 7-0 opinion. “In short, the Directives are consistent with legislative policies and rest on a reasonable basis.”
Grewal applauded the ruling.
“By lifting the cloak of secrecy over our state’s police disciplinary process, we are not simply ensuring accountability for those who engage in misconduct; we are also demonstrating that the vast majority of law enforcement officers work hard and play by the rules,” said Grewal in a statement.
The president of the New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Colligan, criticized Grewal for directives that reverse “long-standing protections afforded to law enforcement by statute and regulation.”
“The State Supreme Court’s decision is both frustrating and disappointing,” Colligan stated. “The NJSPBA does not and will not protect bad officers who violate the public trust and, yet, the 99.9% of good men and women serving in law enforcement continue to find themselves under attack.”
But Colligan praised the court ruling police officers are entitled to a hearing before long-ago events are released publicly, and bashed Grewal for being anti-police.
“We continue to be disappointed in the attorney general’s ongoing refusal to meet with us to discuss fairness within police reform as well as his continuing attacks on law enforcement,” he said.
Grewal pledged to advance plans to similarly publish the names of law enforcement officials at the state level who faced disciplinary charges for serious misconduct over the last 20 years.
“The push for transparency does not end with today’s ruling,” Grewal said. “The Court made clear that the Attorney General possesses broad authority to authorize the disclosure of police disciplinary records on a prospective basis and I am exploring additional steps that we can take to promote public trust.”NJ Supreme Court Major Police Discipline