NJ police discipline records remain private for now, judge says
Names of New Jersey law enforcement officers seriously disciplined over the past two decades will remain under lock and key this summer, under a court order issued Wednesday.
An appellate judge issued a stay order following the request of police unions suing over a recent directive by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, which he said was aimed at building a "culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement."
Noting both the dramatic changes and enormous public interest in the issue, Judge Allison Accurso set Oct. 15 for the appeal argument to be heard in court, noting the schedule was "accelerated."
The Attorney General's Office confirmed it had petitioned the state Supreme Court to dissolve the stay. That petition was denied Thursday.
After the setback at the Supreme Court on Thursday, Grewal insisted that the directives were lawful and necessary.
“Last month, we announced bold new steps to strengthen the culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement. Our efforts may have been delayed, but I’m confident they won’t be denied," he said in an emailed statement.
Grewal last month ordered all law enforcement agencies to release the names and summaries of major disciplinary cases dating back 12 months no later than the end of the year. He also announced the State Police would release a list of troopers fired or suspended for more than five days at a time, in 430 cases by July 15.
One of the unions representing state troopers filed a lawsuit, saying the directive would void decades of expectation that disciplinary records are confidential.
The suit by State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey also said identifying troopers would lead to harassment of their families or expose victims of domestic violence.
The judge said the stay order Wednesday did not prevent notification "whenever possible" to any trooper or law enforcement officer whose record would be made public under the intended directive, as previously announced by Grewal.
The State PBA and its local chapter previously said that releasing 20 years of "misleading data" about officers who may long ago have retired or active officers with an "otherwise stellar record" would amount to a data dump that doesn't tell a complete story.
In late June, the Public Employment Relations Commission halted Paterson's plan to release 20 years of their police department's disciplinary records of active and retired cops.
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