ACLU-NJ represents organizations with a range of missions to protect the public, which broadly recognize the importance of transparency in transforming policing
The ACLU of New Jersey, on behalf of itself and 23 diverse organizations throughout the state, filed briefs (PDF) supporting statewide directives requiring the state to release information about police officers subjected to major discipline, recognizing the dire consequences of keeping this information behind closed doors. They include civil rights organizations, immigrants’ rights organizations, faith-based organizations, women’s health organizations, Libertarian organizations, workers’ rights organizations, and organizations that advocate for parents, young people, survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, people with disabilities, individuals identifying as LBGTQ+, and survivors of isolated confinement.
AG Directives 2020-5 and 2020-6, issued in mid-June by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, require public disclosure of the names of officers who have been found to have committed misconduct and who received suspensions of five or more days. The suits brought by several law enforcement unions, which have historically fought any attempt to bring transparency to policing in the state, seek to prevent the directive from taking effect.
New Jerseyans can easily obtain disciplinary information about dozens of regulated professions, including lawyers, manicurists, and plumbers, but only with a court order can information about police misconduct see the light of day. The AG Directives represent an important first step in bringing transparency to police discipline, but New Jersey should go further. Senate bill S2656, introduced by Senator Loretta Weinberg, would make all police discipline records public, bringing New Jersey in line with other states that provide greater transparency.
The organizations bringing the suit include: American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey; Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice; Cherry Hill Women’s Center; Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County; Faith in New Jersey; Latino Action Network; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; Legal Advocacy Project of UU FaithAction New Jersey; Libertarians for Transparent Government; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) New Jersey State Conference; NAACP Newark; National Organization for Women of New Jersey; Newark Communities for Accountable Policing; New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice; New Jersey Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement; New Jersey Clergy Coalition for Justice; New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; Partners for Women and Justice; People’s Organization for Progress; Salvation and Social Justice; Service Employees International Union 32BJ; SPAN Parent Advocacy Network; Volunteer Lawyers for Justice; and Women Who Never Give Up.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:
“Our society endows police with significant, unique powers, including the power to take a life, and at the same time keeps them more insulated from public view than any other profession. We and 23 other groups have gone to court because the imbalance between excessive police power and nonexistent accountability must change, and it must change now.
“It comes down to this: there is no legitimate reason to limit transparency regarding police disciplinary records, and lives are at stake. The public knows more about the mishaps of plumbers and manicurists than misconduct committed at the hands of police, to dire consequences.
“At this moment, the majority of Americans recognize the need to shrink the role of police, and they understand the urgency of addressing policing tactics in communities of color. Accountability can only come through transparency, and this directive together with permanent changes from the Legislature can lead us forward on a path to greater justice.
“In a democracy, people must have the power and information to determine whether those put in place to serve them are truly serving their best interests – the police do not get the final say over what information the public should and should not see.”