N.J. police departments ordered to identify problem cops, randomly drug test officers

In this file photo, a police cruiser is parked in Camden, N.J. (Bas Slabbers/for WHYY, file)

In this file photo, a police cruiser is parked in Camden, N.J. (Bas Slabbers/for WHYY, file)

A new directive from the New Jersey attorney general’s office requires police departments across the state to set up systems to identify and monitor problem cops.

A second directive requires the departments to randomly drug test officers, a practice that had only been encouraged before.

Both were issued Tuesday.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the new rules were part of an effort to increase “transparency and accountability” between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.

“This is a profession that does its job well, day in and day out,” said Grewal, “and everyone has a vested interest in rooting out the bad actors.”

The AG’s office first developed a policy for randomly drug testing police officers in 1986, but that practice was never mandated. Now departments must conduct random drug tests on a minimum of 10 percent of its officers at least twice a year.

An early warning system is meant to identify problem police officers before they’re involved in an on- or off-duty incident.

The directive requires law enforcement agencies to monitor cops for the following indicators:

  1. Internal affairs complaints against the officer, whether initiated by another officer or by a member of the public
  2. Civil actions filed against the officer
  3. Criminal investigations of or criminal complaints against the officer
  4. Any use of force by the officer that is formally determined or adjudicated (for example, by internal affairs or a grand jury) to have been excessive, unjustified, or unreasonable
  5. Domestic violence investigations in which the officer is an alleged subject
  6. An arrest of the officer, including on a driving-under-the-influence charge
  7. Sexual harassment claims against the officer
  8. Vehicular collisions involving the officer that are formally determined to have been the fault of the officer
  9. A positive drug test by the officer
  10. Cases or arrests by the officer that are rejected or dismissed by a court
  11. Cases in which evidence obtained by an officer is suppressed by a court
  12. Insubordination by the officer
  13. Neglect of duty by the officer
  14. Unexcused absences by the officer
  15. Any other indicators, as determined by the agency’s chief executive

If an officer triggers any three of the above indicators within a 12-month period, the agency’s early-warning system review and intervention process kicks in.

Supervisors are supposed to take remedial action, which can include training or retraining, counseling, intensive supervision, or a fitness-for-duty exam.

The early-warning system is separate from an agency’s formal disciplinary process, which falls within the purview of the internal affairs division, the AG said.

“Frankly, everyone I’ve spoken to about the early-warning system directive welcomes it and invites that level of scrutiny because they want that transparency,” Grewal said.

Raymond Hayducka, the spokesman for the NJ State Association of Chiefs of Police, said his organization supports the new directives and the AG’s push toward better communication between cops and citizens, but added that many police departments already have the two oversight functions.

“I was shocked that every police department in the state wasn’t doing it,” said Hayducka, who noted that some county prosecutors already required random drug testing at police departments.

Hayducka, also the police chief in South Brunswick Township, said his department has been using an early warning system for years. And it works.

“We have officers that came up on [our] early warning [system], and after we did our internal investigation, they were cleared,” he said. “Sometimes it’s coincidence. Sometimes they need enhanced supervision.”

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