Law enforcement unions say they will file suit asking for delay in release of disciplinary records

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Jun 26, 2020 at 3:41 am

The six unions representing law enforcement officers in New Jersey say they are going to court, seeking a temporary injunction that will halt the release of the names of many law enforcement officers who have been suspended, demoted or terminated in the past 20 years.

Law enforcement agencies have been ordered by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to release the names by July 15.

The six unions, in a joint statement released on the Twitter account of the New Jersey State PBA after 7 p.m., said attempts to negotiate what they hope will be a “sensible, responsible and mutually agreeable policy” have failed.

Because of this, the unions said they have no choice, saying in the statement:

“Unfortunately, the firm deadline of July 15 for the publication of the names, coupled with the attorney general’s outright denial to negotiate in good faith has left us with no other option than to file litigation and seek temporary restraints until our arguments are heard in court.”

Governor’s Office
State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan.

Grewal made the announcement June 15 at the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing and in the wake of protests over the killing of George Floyd by a law enforcement officer in Minneapolis. At that briefing, State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan ordered the release of the names of all troopers who have faced serious disciplinary action over the past two decades.

The decision was praised by Gov. Phil Murphy, Grewal and Callahan.

“Until this point, the names of these officers have been kept from the public unless they faced criminal charges,” Murphy said. “This will no longer be the case.”

Grewal said it was time for a new era.

“For decades, New Jersey has not disclosed the identities of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations,” he said. “Today, we end the practice of protecting the few to the detriment of the many. Today, we recommit ourselves to building a culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement.”

Callahan said the decision was about acknowledging missteps.

“We cannot build trust with the public unless we’re candid about the shortcomings of our own officers,” he said. “By releasing the names of state troopers who committed serious disciplinary violations, we are continuing the long, hard work of earning and maintaining the trust of the communities we serve.”

The joint statement:

Ten days ago, and with less than one hour’s notice, the unions representing law enforcement officers across New Jersey were notified by the attorney general of his intent to unilaterally force the publication of officers’ names who are suspended for more than five days, demoted or terminated as a result of confidential internal investigations. In addition, the attorney general has ordered the New Jersey State Police to release the names of troopers involved in this type of discipline in the last 20 years by July 15 and is urging other law enforcement agencies to do the same.

“Over the past 10 days, our unions made multiple attempts to bring the attorney general to the table to negotiate a sensible, responsible and mutually agreeable policy. We publicly and privately expressed a willingness to strike a balance with the attorney general which satisfies his call for transparency in truly egregious situations but does not expose hundreds of officers with far less serious violations. Our intentions were clear that we were not seeking to protect ‘bad cops’ but that we needed a seat at the table.

“Yesterday, our calls to be heard culminated in a meeting with the attorney general to express our many concerns. Troublingly, the meeting began with the attorney general reading, word-for-word, a legal disclaimer which made it explicitly clear the meeting was not a negotiation. For nearly two hours, we discussed many extremely problematic issues with his directives.

“Some of our numerous concerns include the physical safety and mental well-being of our members and their families, the potential to easily identify other involved parties and the existence of strict confidentiality in internal investigations and voluntary disciplinary agreements. Also, many identities slated for the release will include deceased law enforcement officers, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty and whose names are etched on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of our meeting, we were simply told by the attorney general that his office would be in touch.

“Unfortunately, the firm deadline of July 15 for the publication of the names, coupled with the attorney general’s outright denial to negotiate in good faith has left us with no other option than to file litigation and seek temporary restraints until our arguments are heard in court.

“State troopers and police officers throughout New Jersey serve with great honor and distinction and we are proud of our commitment our members make to the citizens of this great state. They deserve to be respected and treated with fair and reasonable policies which address current issues while helping our profession grow closer to communities we care for, not further apart. We are always open to progress that actually makes New Jersey a better place for all families to live work and thrive — including our own.”

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