On June 7, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Attorney General by upholding Law Enforcement Directives Nos. 2020-5 and No. 2020-6, which ordered law enforcement agencies throughout the state to annually publish the names of police officers who were either terminated, demoted or suspended for more than 5 days. We previously blogged about the Directives here and here.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner delivered the opinion of a unanimous court finding that Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal had the authority to issue the Directives, which are, “consistent with legislative policies,” and, “satisfy the deferential standard of review for final agency decisions.” The Court noted that the Directives are “designed to enhance public trust and confidence in law enforcement, to deter misconduct, to improve transparency and accountability in the disciplinary process, and to identify repeat offenders who may try to move from one sensitive position to another.”
However, one critical aspect of the Directives remains open for further evaluation – the demand that the New Jersey State Police reveal the names of approximately 500 Troopers who were seriously disciplined up to 20 years ago. Calling this a “serious issue,” the Court appointed a Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela, A.J.S.C., to hear testimony and make a ruling regarding access to past discipline.
CJ Griffin represented amici curiae National Coalition of Latino Officers and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership in favor of transparency. Although the Directives provide some transparency, both organizations have written in support of Senate Bill No. S2656 and Assembly Bill No. A5301, which make police disciplinary records subject to OPRA.
Several newspapers covered the Supreme Court’s decision: