New Jersey’s Supreme Court has heard legal arguments in a case that could determine the limits of police accountability and transparency.
During the hearing Wednesday, Samuel Samaro, the attorney for North Jersey Media Group, said records and police videos in cases of deadly force involving an officer should be released under the state’s public records laws.
“When citizens are killed or seriously injured by officers, the public has a compelling interest in understanding the pertinent details quickly,” he said.
Michael Bukosky, a lawyer for the New Jersey State Troopers union, said releasing records involving the use of deadly force by police can spur a violent reaction in the community.
“There are certainly enough historical incidents in the last two years to suggest that death or imminent danger to somebody, I’m not going to say is likely to occur, but certainly is a serious consideration,” he said.
Some records and police videos of investigations must be withheld so they don’t influence witnesses and jurors, said attorneys for police unions.
Alexander Shalom with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said that could erode community trust in law enforcement.
“The concern about witness memories and tainted investigations seems to only come into play when the prosecutor wants it to — and that’s what transparency advocates, police accountability advocates, are worried about,” he said. “We’re worried about just letting the prosecutor being the gatekeeper.”