ACLU: Most N.J. police departments garble procedure for filing complaints about officers

The American Civil Liberties Union says there are problems in the way many police agencies in New Jersey respond to citizens who want to file complaints about officers.

ACLU policy counsel Alexander Shalom says more than three-quarters of the police departments in the state could not provide basic information or gave wrong answers to citizens who called about filing an internal affairs complaint.

“We were being told that juveniles needed to come in with their parents, that they couldn’t assure undocumented immigrants that immigration authorities wouldn’t be notified, that anonymous complaints couldn’t be received because they couldn’t be verified and that third-party complaints were impermissible,” Shalom said Tuesday.

Shalom says not dealing with those complaints properly can undermine citizens’ trust of the police.

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By the book

The state attorney general’s office has created a quick reference guide for police employees to keep by the phone so they can provide the accurate information.

“We’ve created a simplified form that will be available to all the people that received these calls which is going to familiarize them with it,” said Attorney General Jeff Chiesa. “It’s available to them right at their desks so we don’t have the confusion that goes on.

“A lot of places have done a great job. There’s some places where we need to do a better job and that’s why we put this process in place.”

The ACLU says that sends a powerful message that the attorney general is taking the problem seriously and wants police to comply with the law.

According to the law, complaints are to accepted anytime, anywhere, from anyone, in any form. And because internal affairs complainants are reporting misconduct, not getting arrested themselves, New Jersey law enforcement authorities are not permitted to initiate contact with federal immigration authorities solely because a person filed a complaint with internal affairs.

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