Meeting with members of the Atlantic City community.
New Jersey has continued to act as a national leader in pursuing commonsense policing policies that promote strong law enforcement-community relationships that enhance public safety. In developing these policies, the Attorney General’s Office has engaged with a broad range of stakeholders, including law enforcement leaders and civil rights organizations, to find common ground on an array of important issues.
Supporting Community Policing
Expanding mental health responder pilot program. ARRIVE Together is the latest step in our efforts to better assess and address behavioral health crises that law enforcement officers encounter and to strengthen public safety across New Jersey. In late 2021, NJSP, in partnership with the Department of Human Services and the Cumberland County Guidance Center, launched the ARRIVE (“Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence & Escalation”) Together pilot program in Cumberland County. The program pairs a law enforcement officer with a certified mental health screener to respond together to 9-1-1 calls that involve behavioral health crises. In June 2022, Attorney General Platkin announced an expansion of the ARRIVE Together initiative to include a second pilot program operated jointly by the Elizabeth and Linden Police Departments, in partnership with Trinitas Regional Medical Center. The two pilots continue to operate and have collectively served hundreds of individuals suffering from mental health distress. The program’s success has led to a partnership with the Legislature and the Governor that has codified the program and appropriated $2 million toward further expansion in 2023. In addition, in late 2022, Attorney General Platkin announced that NJSP has received a competitive grant award from the federal government of approximately $550,000 that will be used to fund a further expansion of the ARRIVE Together initiative. ARRIVE Together underscores Attorney General Platkin’s collaborative approach towards policymaking that includes identifying the needs and concerns of law enforcement and community stakeholders and jointly establishing solutions.
Reducing negative consequences from the large number of outstanding bench warrants for low-level offenses. In May 2022, Attorney General Platkin issued a directive that eliminated the need for the arrest of those individuals with outstanding municipal bench warrants with bail amounts of $500 or less. Instead, those individuals—who are already generally released after a custodial arrest—are now given notice of a new court date and released on scene. These policies seek both to avoid the ramifications of arrest for individuals on technical matters involving low-level offenses and to use law enforcement resources more efficiently and safely.
Developing Sensible Policing Policies
Enacting a landmark police licensing law. The Office of the Attorney General supported legislation establishing licensure for police officers in New Jersey that was signed into law by Governor Murphy in July 2022. The new law requires all law enforcement officers to hold valid, active licenses issued by the Police Training Commission (PTC) in order to be employed as law enforcement officers in the State of New Jersey. This important change in the law will have a real and transformative impact on policing in New Jersey. In addition to promoting a statewide culture of professionalism, transparency, and accountability, it will serve to significantly improve trust between law enforcement officers and the public they are sworn to protect. The PTC is currently working to craft regulations that implement the police licensing statute.
Removing obstacles to the professional success of women officers. In August 2022, Attorney General Platkin issued guidelines designed to help make policing a more accessible career path for women by safeguarding the workplace rights of pregnant and breastfeeding officers at law enforcement agencies statewide. This guidance is designed to create uniformity in how agencies provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant officers under state and federal law, remove certain obstacles to the professional success of women officers, and ultimately help improve the diversity of New Jersey’s law enforcement ranks.
Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Law Enforcement
Launching the “Internal Affairs Dashboard”. Attorney General Platkin announced a number of initiatives in 2022 designed to provide the public with unprecedented transparency into police internal investigations process. In September 2022, the Office of Justice Data (OJD) launched an “Internal Affairs Dashboard,” the most comprehensive compilation of statewide internal affairs information to be made accessible to the public by any state in the nation. It includes detailed information regarding police internal affairs investigations statewide, and it will serve as a useful tool for both law enforcement and the residents of New Jersey.
Ensuring police accountability. In November 2022, Attorney General Platkin announced a policy that significantly increases annual public disclosure of serious misconduct by New Jersey law enforcement officers. This action builds upon a 2020 Attorney General directive that required agencies to report synopses of any “major discipline” including —termination, demotion, or suspension of more than five days. The policy adds categories of discipline to the annual reporting requirements, regardless of the discipline imposed. These categories include, among others, charges of discrimination or bias, excessive force, filing a false report or involvement in domestic violence. Under the directive, each year, law enforcement agencies will report to the Attorney General and publish on their public websites a brief synopsis of misconduct falling within the enumerated categories and the name of the officer involved.
Publicizing internal affairs records. A 2022 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Rivera v. Union County Prosecutor’s Office, requires that a range of internal affairs reports may be publicly accessible under the common law right of access upon request. The Attorney General’s new policy lays out a framework to improve the efficiency of agency responses to requests for internal affairs records—to avoid the need for burdensome litigation on all sides. Specifically, upon request by a member of the public or the press, agencies will disclose a summary of the allegations, a summary of the factual findings, and the final discipline that was imposed in certain cases.
Combatting corruption. As the state continues to investigate the operation of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and reform practices at the state’s only correctional facility for female offenders, the Corruption Bureau of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), obtained an indictment against 14 corrections officers at the correctional facility , with respect to allegations that inmates were forcibly removed from cells and some were beaten, leaving two of the victims severely injured. Charges against the officers included conspiracy, official misconduct, tampering with public records, and aggravated assault. In a separate case, OPIA brought charges against the mayor, former mayor, and city commissioner of a shore town for fraudulently participating in the State Health Benefits Program. Although these cases are still pending, they are emblematic of the work the Bureau conducts to investigate violations of the public trust.
Obtaining multiple victories in priority criminal and law enforcement matters. In 2022, several appellate court victories were achieved in cases involving important matters of criminal law and policy. These cases include State v. O’Donnell, in which the Appellate Division upheld the application of New Jersey’s bribery law to a candidate for office; State v. Arroyo-Nunez, in which the Appellate Division agreed that the Attorney General could order prosecutors to prospectively and retroactively agree to vacate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses; and State v. FED, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted a broad construction of the compassionate release statute.