Scrutinizing cops’ ancient history is a big waste of time (Opinion)
It’s tough enough to imagine what it must be like to be a cop. Most of us never think of getting shot or stabbed when we go to work or having to get into a dangerous vehicle chase. Then there’s the being lied to by almost every point of contact you have all day long as you try to protect and serve. Not to mention the awful names you’re called all shift.
Now try to imagine you put in 20 years on the force and suddenly the one time you screwed up in the first year on the job and it resulted in a five day suspension that ancient history will be in a data dump to the public. No doubt it will make the news, and it will probably come with little to no explanation.
It won’t matter if your infraction had nothing whatsoever to do with excessive force. It could be something about screwing up on a report or something you did wrong with your patrol vehicle or hell I don’t know, maybe sneaking your wife into the locker room back when she was your girlfriend? Who knows.
The point is it could be anything, things that never made you a danger to the public and never indicated you were the kind of rogue cop who is charged with George Floyd’s murder. Yet, as NorthJersey.com reports, it will be dredged up and made public under new rules sent down by NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal that will apply to all cops going forward but is retroactive going twenty years back for state troopers.
Now word is out that Bergen County departments have been ordered by their county prosecutor to do the same, according to NJ.com. A 20 year microscope all cops there will be placed under.
The unions are pissed. I don’t blame them. In a statement unions representing troopers call out the new rule as one that will “harass, embarrass, and rehash past incidents during a time of severe anti-law enforcement sentiment.”
Some of the problems with this? This can apply to officers who are no longer even on the job. Is it right to take a guy who the state police felt was worthy of retirement then change the rules and publish his work history publicly? Oh, but only the bad parts of the work history mind you. It may include two disciplinary actions in his 20 years but will it also offer all the commendations, the above and beyond actions he may have taken over the years? Of course it won’t.
If this can apply to officers who are retired, will it even include officers who have died? Would there be a bigger slap in the face than that; changing the rules and releasing your work files after your death when you can no longer explain or defend yourself?
Are there rogue cops? Absolutely. Are most incredibly decent human beings? Absolutely.
I don’t think mining and making public the history of officers the departments felt were worthy of remaining on the job is solving anything. In my opinion the number one thing that needs to change is the culture within. Meaning good cops can’t keep silent anymore when they see the bad apples. I understand these folks put their lives in each other’s hands and have to have each other’s backs. It’s easy to see where the blue code comes from. But good cops not speaking up makes all cops look bad and that’s the number one thing that has to change. That change in culture cannot come from an attorney general or a county prosecutor or a legislature. That has to happen from within, and it better start now.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.