Bill requiring independent investigations and prosecutions when police take a life passes Senate

The New Jersey Senate today passed S2469, a bill requiring independent investigations when someone dies at the hands of law enforcement. A broad coalition of civil rights, clergy, and labor groups — including the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, Clergy Coalition for Justice, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the ACLU-NJ — advocated for this bill as an important first step to guaranteeing accountability when police officers wrongfully use their power.

The ACLU-NJ included independent investigations for police violence as a top priority in its five-point blueprint for police reform released this summer.

Dianna Houenou

The ACLU-NJ issues the following statement, which can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Dianna Houenou:

“Giving people confidence that investigations into police violence will be independent is a key part of building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. We give police officers extraordinary power, including the power to take a life. The public deserves to hold law enforcement accountable when officers abuse those powers wrongfully.

“We strongly commend Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg for their leadership on this fundamental civil rights issue, and we thank the senators who voted for it. We urge members of the Assembly to pass this critically important legislation quickly.

“This bill establishes that, as a baseline standard, investigations will not be tainted by a conflict of interest or the perception of one. The public deserves the security of knowing that an investigation into the most serious action officers could take is conducted as impartially as possible.

“This bill marks an important step in creating police accountability in New Jersey – but we need to go even further. Police misconduct does not have to result in death to create a tragedy, and investigations must be independent whenever serious injuries during police interactions occur. For the sake of the living victims and those who bear the scars of police abuse, more must be done. The yes vote in the Senate today is a promising start.”

The following groups advocated in coalition for S2469:

1199SEIU, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee, Bethany Baptist Church (Newark), Bethel AME Church (Pennington), Bethel AME Church (Woodbury), Black Lives Matter Morristown, Black Lives Matter Paterson, Black Lives Matter New Jersey, Church of the Good Shepherd (Willingboro), Clergy Coalition for Justice, Drug Policy Alliance, Faith in New Jersey, Garden State Equality, Latino Action Network, Latino Leadership Alliance, Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey, Make the Road New Jersey, Morris County NAACP, NAACP – New Jersey State Conference, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization for Women – NJ, New Jersey Black Issues Convention, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Communities United, New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, New Jersey Parents Caucus, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey State Industrial Union Council, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Salvation and Social Justice, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry