New Jersey is home to some of the finest law enforcement officers in the country. In fall 2019, the Attorney General adopted a comprehensive package of policy initiatives designed to reinforce and clarify the Garden State’s commitment to excellence in policing. These statewide policies are intended to promote the culture of professionalism, accountability, and transparency that are hallmarks of New Jersey’s best law enforcement agencies. Through the “Excellence in Policing Initiative,” the state is building a national model for strengthening trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
- Ensuring public confidence in use-of-force investigations. There are few investigations more important—or more challenging—that those involving the use of force by law enforcement officers against civilians. As part of the Excellence in Policing Initiative, the Attorney General issued a comprehensive statewide policy to ensure that all such investigations are conducted fully, fairly, and independently. Among other reforms, the new policy required that, except in certain narrow circumstances, law enforcement must release any available video footage depicting the incident once investigators complete their initial investigation.
- Investing in police training and accountability. One of the most effective ways to strengthen police-community relations is to ensure that all law enforcement officers receive the best possible training. In New Jersey, the Attorney General oversees the Police Training Commission (PTC), which is responsible for setting statewide training standards for all law enforcement officers and police academies. In December 2019, the Attorney General announced plans to reinvigorate the PTC, with new plans to assess national best practices and enhance the professionalism of the State’s law enforcement officers.
- Reestablishing confidence in the police disciplinary process. To build and maintain public trust, law enforcement agencies must implement mechanisms for identifying and investigating allegations of misconduct within their ranks. Although the vast majority of law enforcement officers consistently adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards, it is vital that police departments hold officers accountable when they fall short of those requirements. In 2019, the Attorney General implemented a suite of improvements to the statewide policy governing the police disciplinary process, known as Internal Affairs Policies & Procedures. Among other things, those improvements included establishing a standardized civilian complaint form, imposing timelines on investigations, clarifying when internal affairs information may be shared with Civilian Review Boards, and requiring County Prosecutors to exercise greater oversight over the internal affairs functions of police departments in their jurisdictions.
- Creating an “Office of Policing Policy.” In December 2019, the Attorney General established an “Office of Policing Policy” to oversee implementation of the Excellence in Policing Initiative and develop additional resources, tools, and training to assist the State’s law enforcement agencies and officers. To serve as its first Director, the Attorney General selected Assistant Attorney General Joseph Walsh, who previously served as a prosecutor in the Division of Criminal Justice and spent over 20 years as a police officer in Burlington County. ]
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