After a poor showing on answering questions about how to file a complaint against an officer, police departments in Camden County will get additional training.
A new study by the ACLU of New Jersey found departments throughout the state had trouble relaying the rules to volunteers who called to learn the rules for a “friend.”
Even though the law permits complaints to be submitted anonymously and not in-person, an officer who answered in Barrington Borough in Camden County is singled out in the report for saying his department would not take a complaint by telephone.
In a recording provided by the ACLU, the officer responded, “Absolutely not. No. He’d have to come in.”
“Like right now, I don’t know who I’m talking to,” he told the volunteer.”
“We can’t work that way.”
Jason Laughlin with the Camden County Prosecutor’s office said the county will print wallet-sized cards with the rules and provide other education.
“We’re going to make sure that every officer on the force throughout the county is very clear on what needs to happen when somebody wants to file one of these complaints,” Laughlin said Wednesday.
Cumberland and Salem counties finished in the top three for giving correct information. However, in Camden County, callers either could not reach anyone to lodge a complaint or were given incorrect information on how to file one. Callers were given flawless information only 2.9 percent of the time.
More than half the police departments in New Jersey gave callers incorrect information about how to make complaints.
“This is a really big problem with a solution that’s as easy as training,” agreed the report’s author Alexander Shalom of the ACLU of New Jersey. He said law enforcement rarely had bad intentions. In these cases, they just didn’t have the right answers.
The latest study followed up on an ACLU survey in 2009 that found similar problems.