TRENTON, N.J. — Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey have been given a 60-day deadline to start releasing police disciplinary records.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the deadline Wednesday. It comes two days after the state’s Supreme Court upheld Grewal’s June 2020 directive ordering the release of the records by a unanimous 7-0 decision.
Grewal issued the directive in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis amid calls for more police accountability.
“This week’s Supreme Court decision heralded a new chapter for police transparency and accountability in New Jersey,” said Grewal in a statement. “Today’s directive restarts the process that was put on hold by the courts last summer and lays the groundwork for an initial round of public disclosures in the next few months. By lifting the cloak of secrecy over our state’s police disciplinary process, we are not simply ensuring accountability for those who engage in misconduct; we are also demonstrating that the vast majority of law enforcement officers work hard and play by the rules.”
On June 15, 2020, Grewal issued a directive known as the “Major Discipline Directive,” requiring law enforcement agencies to begin to publish, at least once a year, a brief synopsis of all complaints resulting in major discipline — defined as termination, reduction in rank or grade, and/or suspension of more than five days — including the names of the officers sanctioned.
For decades, New Jersey has treated those files as confidential. The directive revised the statewide rules for internal affairs investigations and it set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020 for agencies to publish initial reports identifying officers subject to major discipline. As a result of legal challenges, however, implementation of the directive was stayed soon after it was issued.
Monday’s court decision clears the way for implementation to move forward. Directive 2021-6 sets a new deadline, 60 days from Wednesday (Aug. 8, 2021), by which law enforcement agencies must publish their first reports. Such reports must cover complaints where a plea or settlement was reached or a sanction imposed from June 15, 2020, the original date of the directive, until December 31, 2020.
Going forward, law enforcement agencies must publish all major discipline for each calendar year no later than January 31 of the following year.
Officers who were disciplined before that can seek to have a judge block public disclosure.