CJ Griffin Quoted in Opinion of the Star Ledger Editorial Board on the Need for Police Transparency
CJ Griffin, Director of the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, was quoted in in an Opinion of the Star Ledger Editorial Board, “Indicted cops roughed up a Black teen, then fought to keep it secret. No more.” The Opinion discusses the recent indictment of three Ewing police officers who were indicted for using excessive force on a Black juvenile suspected of stealing a car. Griffin represented the Trentonian newspaper in an Open Public Records Act lawsuit initially filed in 2018 seeking a copy of the Use of Force (UFR) report regarding the incident. In 2020, the Appellate Division ruled that the UFR must be released with the juvenile’s name redacted. The Opinion notes it took three years to get the UFR released.
Bodycam footage is generally released in New Jersey, but Ewing based its resistance on the notion that its department had to protect this juvenile’s identity. Yet redaction of the kid’s face and other identifying information is sufficient to do that, as an appellate court ultimately ruled. Ewing’s refusal to comply seemed “more about desiring secrecy than protecting privacy,” says CJ Griffin, the public records attorney who won this case in a two-year legal fight.
The police department ultimately turned over a single sheet of paper that didn’t have much on it: a report filed about force used, revealing only that one officer said he used a compliance hold to get control of the teenager. Herein lies the problem with relying solely on officer-created reports, as Griffin notes: Police can write what they want. They don’t have to include the boots on the kid’s head, or the snow kicked in his face.
The Opinion also included a tweet from Griffin:
Keep pushing for police records. Ewing spent nearly $200k keeping this info from The Trentonian. We fought & won. Now there seem to be indictments coming Transparency = accountability It’s why we need #S2656 to pass
No more hidden police misconduct
To view the Opinion of the Star Ledger Editorial Board, click here.