In this third part of our series about using OPRA to monitor police agencies, we will discuss how to ensure that individual officers meet the qualifications for their duty assignments and are properly trained.
Generally, personnel records are exempt from access under OPRA. However, we previously blogged about the personnel records exemption and explained that there are three exceptions. The third exception provides that the following records are accessible:
data contained in information which disclose conformity with specific experiential, educational or medical qualifications required for government employment or for receipt of a public pension, but not including any detailed medical or psychological information, shall be a government record.
This means that you are able to obtain any records which prove that an employee meets the requirements of the job.
For police officers, this means that you can obtain training certificates for courses that they are required to take in order to take in order to be police officers. Among the required courses that every police officer in New Jersey must complete include:
- basic police academy training
- annual firearms requalification training
- use of force training
- vehicular pursuit training
- domestic violence training
- cultural diversity training
- bias intimidation crimes training
Other courses may be necessary in order for a police officer to be promoted or to hold a specific duty assignment. Some of these courses include:
- Breathalyzer training courses and recertification for those who operate breathalyzers
- 911 dispatcher and call-taker training and recertification for those who work in 911 call centers
- K-9 training for those who work with canine partners
Any of these records can be requested and will help the public ensure that officers are properly trained and qualified for the positions that they hold.
Sample OPRA requests:
“Pursuant to OPRA and the common law, I seek the Officer Jones’ use of force training certificates for years 2015-2017.”
“Pursuant to OPRA and the common law, I seek the annual firearms recertification certificates for all of the police officers in your police department for the year 2017.”