Attorney General Gurbir Grewal last month ordered law enforcement agencies in the state to begin naming officers who commit serious disciplinary violations.
New Jersey had been among 23 states that kept police disciplinary records confidential under its Open Public Records Act. The identities of disciplined officers weren’t made public in this state unless they faced criminal charges.
Grewal’s order puts New Jersey among 15 other states with limited availability of police disciplinary records. State officials need to finish the job and make the records generally available to the public, as a dozen other states have done.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, majority leader of the state Senate, introduced a bill last week to do that.
Her proposal would go beyond disciplinary records for regular state and local law enforcers to include cases involving special and temporary police officers, school police, correctional officers and investigators, and parole officers.
Importantly, her bill would require disclosure of any complaints, allegations and charges pertaining to an officer.
Grewal’s order only applies in cases where an officer is disciplined for improper conduct. But too often an officer caught in bad behavior will resign before being disciplined, sometimes while still in good standing. Then there needn’t be disclosure.
Weinberg’s bill would require release of pertinent materials relating to trials or hearings and any video and audio recording related to the case.
The New Jersey Press Association favors this extension of public records transparency and so does The Press of Atlantic City.
We think increased public awareness of disciplinary actions against law enforcers will encourage compliance with policies and practices, and make it easier for departments and agencies to remove problem officers from positions in which their powers may be used to harm.
The order by the Attorney General’s Office for every agency to publish an annual list of officers who were fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation is a good start.
Grewal’s deadline for that is Dec. 31. The Senate and Assembly should agree on a version of Weinberg’s bill for Gov. Murphy to sign by then as well.