TRENTON – An Assembly panel advanced proposals Monday that aim to root out any police officers involved with anti-government or hate groups in New Jersey.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, said the need for the measures became apparent after the riot at the Capitol in January when Congress was certifying the election results. Off-duty police officers were part of the mob.

“We need to see what extremist organizations are out there,” McKnight said. “When Jan. 6th occurred, it really heightened all of the extremist organizations. And I want the public to know who’s out there with this mindset.”

Scott Richman, the New York and New Jersey regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said police officers and military members with security clearances can’t be allowed to engage in violent extremist activity, as their access to sensitive or classified information creates tactical challenges.

“By associating with extremist movements or publicly expressing support for these ideologies, members of law enforcement are behaving in a way that directly contradicts their oaths to serve and protect our communities and undermines community safety,” Richman said.

Richman said anti-government and white supremacist beliefs are the most commonly held extremist beliefs among law enforcement.

“Forty percent of the cases that we identified, that our Center on Extremism identified over the last decade, an officer was found to be associating with anti-government ideology groups, including militia groups and sovereign citizens such as the Three Percenters or the Oath Keepers,” he said. “So, serious issue.”

The Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee advanced two bills:

  • A5790, which requires the Office of the Attorney General to establish and maintain a domestic extremist organization database. Among the things that would have to be included is information concerning membership and recruiting tactics of the organization, including whether the organization is known to recruit current or former members of law enforcement agencies or the military.
  • A5792, which requires law enforcement agencies to establish review council in their internal affairs unit to investigate law enforcement officers who participate in hate groups or make public expressions of hate, while on or off duty.

The panel also discussed A5788, which requires state, county and local law enforcement officers to be vetted for evidence of personal bias when they are hired and every five years after that.

“It’s unfortunate in this day and age that we have to discuss these types of extreme measures,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley, D-Union.

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Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, R-Ocean, voted to abstain on the two bills, saying that if they’re going to be enacted they should apply more broadly.

“I just think this targets law enforcement personnel, and if we have public employees or any employee of government who’s involved with a hate group, that should be included in this legislation,” McGuckin said.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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