Under new policies, police departments across the state of New Jersey will be more closely scrutinized in their handlings of misconduct allegations. The public may also see more in the way of internal investigation results and there will be closer tabs kept on such cases overall. Attorney General Paula Dow announced the policy changes a week ago, much to the approval of the NJ ACLU.
Newark’s Police Department, now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, isn’t the only department who needs some oversight. The Star-Ledger reveals that of 90,423 complaints from 2000 to 2008, only 86,925 dispositions were available in public records. What happened in the missing cases isn’t clear.
But under the new policies, fewer such complaints will fall through the cracks thanks to stricter guidelines and closer scrutiny by county prosecutors.
The state’s policy on handling such cases hadn’t been reviewed since 2000. Dow brought together a task force of prosecutors, police chiefs, and union officials to draft the changes now being implemented.
County prosecutors will be required to collect reports on all complaints and to collect documentation on completed investigations. The police will have to adhere to stricter standards, keeping files on officers and monitoring them for patterns of misconduct. Finally, even if complaints are dismissed by the courts, Internal Affairs will be required to follow through on investigations to completion.
Another problem is transparency. In an effort to improve this issue, the public will be privy to summarizations of the most serious misconduct cases, though officers may not be named. Though the ACLU wanted to see all internal affairs’ investigations made public, this was a point of compromise.
Statewide New Jersey has faced problems with misconduct over the years. While many of the problems were centralized in Newark, a statewide policy change will only help ensure those same issues don’t reach to other departments.
When you deal with the police, you want to be assured that you are dealing with trustworthy people. Allegations of misconduct deal a significant blow to the relationship between public servant and the public at large. This is part of the reason so many people have a hard time trusting police.
If you are facing criminal charges, you want to know you have someone in your corner who is truly looking out for your best interests. Your criminal defense attorney is that advocate. If you are up against a criminal case, contact my offices today for a consultation.