New Jersey’s top law enforcement official said a new set of rules will improve accountability and transparency among police officers and prosecutors in an era when the criminal justice system is under increased scrutiny.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal laid out the changes in a handful of directives released Wednesday that he said were unprecedented.
“These documents reflect the most significant restructuring of policing practices certainly during my tenure as attorney general, and perhaps in the history of the Office of the Attorney General,” Grewal said.
Under the plan, prosecutors will have to release more information to defendants before trial. Police departments also will have to release publicly more video footage of incidents in which police use force — and not strictly incidents that result in death, as was the case under the old policy.
The state will make the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability permanent and attempt to identify problem officers earlier.
Grewal said the state also will explore a licensing system for police officers, which many other states have, to prevent problem cops from shuffling between departments.
New Jersey’s state police superintendent, Col. Pat Callahan, said overhauls such as these were why his peers across the country follow the Garden State’s example on law enforcement policies.
“Those executives in law enforcement look to the State of New Jersey, to our chiefs and to the State Police, as to how we’re addressing challenges, whether that’s the opiate epidemic, whether that’s crime-gun intelligence, whether that’s information sharing, whether that’s how do we engage with our diverse communities throughout our state,” he said.
The changes come after several news organizations highlighted problems in the state’s criminal justice system. NJ Advance Media built a database of use-of-force incidents involving police officers and showed that some officers accounted for a disproportionate number of altercations. The Asbury Park Press revealed last year that New Jersey does not track problem cops, which means they can be fired by one department and hired by another, all within state lines.