Brothers and Sisters, Last week AG Gurbir S. Grewal announced two directives without input of the FOP and other police organizations. Our State Lodge has objected to both directives and is urging the AG to rescind them and work collaboratively with police organizations to find sensible resolutions to these issues. Below are the contents of the letter I’ve sent AG Grewal on behalf of our membership. I will continue to update you as this issue unfolds.
Robert W. Fox
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal
Office of the Attorney General
Hughes Justice Center
PO Box 80
25 Market St
Trenton, NJ 08625-0080
Attorney General Grewal,
On behalf of myself and the 13,000 law enforcement officers represented by the New Jersey State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”), I write to express my deep concerns and disappointment with recently issued Law Enforcement Directive Nos. 2020-5 and 2020-6.
As you are keenly aware, the FOP has always served as a willing partner with your office, the State of New Jersey and the public to establish and implement best police practices, to foster positive community relations and trust, and to ensure the safety and security of both our officers and the people of New Jersey. Even when we may disagree on a given topic, the FOP has demonstrated its commitment to working with you to bridge any divide so as to ensure New Jerseyans receive the best police services in our Nation. It is because of this history that I was so disappointed that your office issued Directives 2020-5 and 2020-6 without any consultation with the FOP, or any of the other statewide professional law enforcement organizations.
The lack of consultation with the New Jersey’s law enforcement community – the men and women on the ground – is evident in these directives. Without getting into the potential legal infirmities associated with the implementation of these new guidelines, the Directives simply lack practical sense. By reducing the threshold for reportable events to five (5) days for any type of infraction (including uniform violations, auto accidents, or the occasional lateness) the Directives cast such a wide net that it is likely to render the disclosures meaningless, thus undermining the purported intent set forth in your Directives.
The State of New Jersey, the Office of the Attorney General, and the courts have historically recognized the strong public policy favoring the confidentiality of internal affairs files. Reporting procedures already in place in the existing guidelines, including those implemented as recently as December of 2019, appropriately balance the need for transparency with the confidentiality interests relating to internal affairs records. While these strong public policy interests have not changed, the new Directives completely ignore the critical balance that protects both the law enforcement community and the public. The concern, of course, is that by so drastically expanding the public disclosure of officers charged with discipline: causes wrongfully accused or officers to be unfairly tainted, perhaps even before there has been a final disposition from a court or other tribunal; encourages unwarranted complaints from those only seeking notoriety or targeting an officer for reasons other than wrongdoing; and subjects officers and their families to the possibility that they may be targets in their homes, communities, and schools.
The decision to permit the retroactive release of the identities of officers republishing old annual reports serves absolutely no legitimate purpose other than to harass and embarrass, officers and their families, including officers who may have since retired from law enforcement and some who have passed away.
To be absolutely clear, the FOP is more than willing to work with you on options regarding the disclosure of officers who were terminated or who are found guilty of violations such as excessive use of force or racially biased incidents. Our willingness to find sensible solutions in the past proves we do not intend to block common sense reforms. It is in that vein that I ask you to rescind these Directives, meet with the FOP and other police organizations on this important issue, and allow us to work with you to find sensible solutions, as we have done so many times before.
Robert W. Fox, President