NJ bill targets bad cops looking to switch departments
Cops who misbehave in one law enforcement agency shouldn't be able to get a job in another unless all the unsavory details are made available to the potential new employer, according to a proposed New Jersey law that awaits action by an Assembly committee in the fall.
The legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, requires that police departments and other agencies provide personnel files of officers, including any information on related internal affairs investigations, to other agencies that are interested in bringing the officer on board.
"Maybe what the person did wrong was not a crime but a violation of the rules and regulations of the department," Johnson told New Jersey 101.5. "We want to ensure that the receiving department or receiving jurisdiction has all the information ... on the applicant."
This personnel file, typically kept secret, could also include positive things about an officer's work, such as commendations, Johnson noted.
The legislation, which was referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee for consideration, is supported by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Christopher Wagner, the Association's director of public affairs and the former Denville police chief, said most police departments complete a thorough background investigation when hiring a police officer from another agency. But certain documents, such as those related to internal affairs investigations, may not be shared.
"We want to get a good, honest picture of what kind of candidate the police officer is," Wagner said. "If there's anything in their background that might be questionable, or conversely anything in their background that might be really fantastic, we think we'd like to know about it beforehand."
Johnson said he was inspired to craft this legislation after taking part in a forum hosted by the Asbury Park Press, which previously ran their "Protecting the Shield" series that identified a lack of oversight and accountability for "rogue" cops in the Garden State.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.