TRENTON - Following June 7's unanimous 7-0 decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court upholding his 2020 directive regarding the release of police disciplinary records, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal June 9 issued a supplemental directive, setting a 60-day deadline for all law enforcement agencies to publish their first public reports identifying officers who committed serious disciplinary violations.
According to a release, these initial reports will cover any major discipline imposed by agencies between June 15, 2020—the date of the attorney general’s original order—and the end of the calendar year.
“This week’s Supreme Court decision heralded a new chapter for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey,” stated Grewal. “Today’s directive restarts the process that was put on hold by the courts last summer and lays the groundwork for an initial round of public disclosures in the next few months. 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.”
Grewal June 15, 2020, issued Directive 2020-5, known as the “Major Discipline Directive,” requiring law enforcement agencies to begin to publish, at least once a year, a brief synopsis of all complaints resulting in major discipline—defined as termination, reduction in rank or grade, and/or suspension of more than five days—including the names of the officers sanctioned.
For decades, New Jersey has treated police disciplinary files as confidential. Grewal issued the Major Discipline Directive to restore public trust and promote a culture of transparency and accountability in policing across New Jersey.
The Major Discipline Directive revised the statewide rules for internal affairs investigations known as the Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures (IAPP) to reflect that policy change, and it set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, for agencies to publish initial reports identifying officers subject to major discipline. As a result of legal challenges, however, implementation of the directive was stayed soon after it was issued. June 7's court decision clears the way for implementation to move forward.
Directive 2021-6 sets a new deadline, 60 days from June 9, by which law enforcement agencies must publish their first reports under the Major Discipline Directive and IAPP. Such reports must cover complaints where a plea or settlement was reached or a sanction imposed from June 15, 2020, the original date of the directive, until Dec. 31, 2020. Going forward, law enforcement agencies must publish all major disciplines for each calendar year no later than Jan. 31 of the following year.
Directive 2021-6 also revises IAPP to implement other policy changes consistent with June 7's Supreme Court decision. Among other things, the directive prevents agencies from disclosing the identities of victims of officer misconduct, including domestic violence victims.
In addition, the directive prohibits agencies from entering into agreements with disciplined officers that limits how an agency describes the officers’ misconduct in its annual public report, or that prevents the attorney general from disclosing information about the incident to the public.
Directive 2021-6 is posted at AG Directive 2021-6.