Court Affirms Authority to Require Police Transparency

October 16, 2020

Appellate Division rules to uphold AG directive, though appeal to NJ Supreme Court likely - underscoring the need for permanent legislation mandating police transparency

The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court issued a decision (PDF) today in a series of challenges by police unions to state directives issued by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in June. The directives require the public disclosure of the identities of police officers who have been subjected to major discipline.

The ACLU of New Jersey represented two dozen diverse organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) in support of the disclosure of police discipline records.

The ACLU of New Jersey issued the following statement, attributed to ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero:

“There is no legitimate reason to limit transparency regarding police disciplinary records, with lives at stake, and today’s appellate ruling strengthens our ability to hold police accountable by shedding light on law enforcement.

“But today’s decision also underscores the urgent need for permanent legislation that provides the public with all the information needed to hold police departments accountable for misconduct. We call on legislative leaders to hold hearings as quickly as possible on S2656 and move it through the Legislature. This bill, sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg, brings meaningful transparency and will allow for the public to understand how police departments operate and how police officers are using their power.

“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 – and, especially given the extraordinary powers police officers hold, secrecy surrounding their misconduct is unacceptable.”

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