CJ Griffin Quoted in Northjersey.com Regarding New Attorney General Directive on Disclosure of Police Misconduct That “Guts” Recent Landmark N.J. Supreme Court Ruling
CJ Griffin, Partner and Director of the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, was quoted in a northjersey.com article, “Which police in your town have used excessive force? NJ expands access to that info.” The article discusses the recent directive issued by the New Jersey Attorney General requiring police departments to create a summary report for public release upon request, which report details certain police misconduct. The article also discusses the landmark case litigated by Griffin, Richard Rivera v. the Union County Prosecutor's Office, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court held in March that internal affairs reports may be released pursuant to the common law right of access.
But not all transparency advocates are cheering the attorney general’s announcement.
CJ Griffin, a Hackensack attorney who has represented NorthJersey.com and The Record in public records lawsuits, said Platkin's directive effectively guts the state Supreme Court's unanimous decision in March that said some internal affairs files could be released in their entirety.
But the court's decision, which stemmed from a lawsuit over an Elizabeth police director who resigned after an investigation found he referred to employees using racist and sexist language, cracked open the door and allowed the public to finally see certain redacted internal affairs files, Griffin said.
That will likely change now that Platkin says departments must create two separate reports — an investigation report and a summary written with the intention that the public will see it, she said.
"We know from prior major discipline disclosures that what they report isn't full, fair and accurate," Griffin said. "We're not going to get the meat and potatoes of those reports any more, which is highly problematic. The reason we have public records laws is so you can get the actual, raw public record. Not a summary of a public record.”
When asked about Griffin's concerns, Platkin said police will be able to release the summary reports much more quickly because they won't need to review and redact it….
Griffin dismissed this as a typical “anti-transparency governmental response.”
“Plenty of agencies have been producing the internal affairs reports, and often all that needs to be redacted is a few names,” Griffin said. “We, as a result of this decision, are going to get less information. It’s going to be this sanitized version of transparency … They actually walked back what the Supreme Court gave us.”