The Attorney General’s Office Friday said it has issued revised, stricter internal affairs procedures, including more monitoring and transparency.
Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced revisions to the Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures to ensure that complaints against law enforcement officers in New Jersey are thoroughly investigated and monitored by police departments and the county prosecutors, and that individual cases of misconduct and potential patterns of abuse are appropriately addressed.
The revised policy includes stricter requirements for law enforcement agencies to periodically report to the county prosecutor and the public regarding the number of complaints received against officers, the nature of the allegations, and the dispositions of those internal affairs cases, the AG’s office stated.
Among other things, the revisions mandate the following:
Requires all officers assigned to the internal affairs function to complete training mandated by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Explicitly requires each law enforcement agency to track the number of complaints filed with the agency and the number of complaints filed against individual officers. While the previous policy had encouraged the monitoring of complaints, the revisions make monitoring and tracking of complaints a responsibility for each agency.
Requires that agencies evaluate complaints to determine whether patterns, practices or trends of inappropriate behavior or conduct are developing in the agency, and where needed, take action to prevent such conduct and safeguard the constitutional rights of the public.
Requires each county prosecutor to establish a schedule for each law enforcement agency to submit periodic reports to the prosecutor summarizing allegations received and investigations concluded during the period. The prosecutor shall also specify the content of the reports.
Requires law enforcement agencies to periodically make public a synopsis of all complaints that result in a fine or suspension of 10 days or more to a member of the agency in order to provide a greater level of transparency to the police disciplinary process. The synopsis shall not identify the officer or the complainant.
Requires that if a complaint against an officer is not sustained, the complainant must receive a letter with a brief explanation of why it was not sustained.
Requires internal affairs units to be notified of all firearms discharges that are not related to training, all use of force incidents that result in injury to the suspect or a third party, all vehicular pursuits undertaken by members of the department, and all collisions involving department vehicles.
Requires internal affairs units to continue to administratively investigate cases in which a municipal court or Superior Court complaint has been dismissed.
Requires every law enforcement agency to establish a policy for investigating and resolving domestic violence incidents involving its employees.
Requires every law enforcement agency to notify the prosecutor’s office when the agency has reason to question an officer’s credibility based on a false report, a pending court complaint, a court conviction, or a judicial finding.
Clarifies that the policy applies to complaints filed by supervisors and other law enforcement employees as well as private citizens.
“Police officers put their lives on the line each day in very difficult jobs,” Dow said in a release. “In order to perform them effectively, they need to have the trust and faith of the people they serve. That is why it is absolutely critical that law enforcement agencies investigate allegations against officers thoroughly and fairly, and that we provide the public with meaningful data about the complaints made against police agencies and how they are resolved.”
“It has been over a decade since anyone has reviewed and revised this important policy, which applies to all local police departments in New Jersey,” Taylor said. “By mandating better training, clearer protocols, more oversight from the county prosecutor, and greater accountability, we believe we will make internal affairs units fairer and more effective.”
The revised policy is at www.njpublicsafety.com.