CJ Griffin, Director of the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, was quoted in the Law 360 article, “NJ's Police Use-Of-Force Database Falls Short, Experts Say.” The article includes views of several people involved in police transparency that New Jersey needs to do more than the creation of the online data base that tracks how often police are using force and notes that if bill S. 2656 is passed, it would bring New Jersey up to par with states that allow access to disciplinary records.
CJ Griffin, a Hackensack-based Pashman Stein Walder Hayden PC partner specializing in public records litigation, said that although the database provides data on police departments' use-of-force reports, it doesn't show the outcome of the incidents at issue because it fails to indicate if the officers received discipline.
"And the reason for that, and the reason why New Jersey cannot call itself a national leader on police reform, is because we shield police disciplinary records from public view," Griffin said. "Because we don't get to know the outcome of any of these internal affairs investigations, this data is out there with no context whatsoever — which, frankly, harms police officers, too."
Without having access to internal affairs documents, or IA documents, there is no way for the public to know if an officer's use of force was justified or if the officer was disciplined as a result, Griffin said.
The confidentiality of these records is "pursuant to the internal affairs policy of the attorney general's office," Griffin said. "So he, with the stroke of a pen, has the authority to say that IA records are no longer confidential, and he didn't."
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said Grewal has tried to pursue stronger policing reforms, including issuing two statewide directives last year calling for law enforcement to publish the names of officers who "have been fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days."
"Those directives are currently on hold due to litigation challenging the directives," Aseltine said. "As a result of that litigation, the question of whether the attorney general has the authority to release police disciplinary records is now squarely before the New Jersey Supreme Court."
Griffin, however, said the data in the use-of-force database is already accessible through the state's Open Public Records Act, or OPRA, and could already be accessed before the database rolled out.
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