Anyone who has been following the news over the past few months understands that serious instances of police misconduct have occurred (and continue to occur) throughout the country. The manner in which the police have handled George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and the protesters in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon, to name some of the more obvious incidents, have all raised serious questions concerning encounters between law enforcement representatives and ordinary citizens. There is talk in Congress and the state legislatures about reforms ranging from defunding the police to clamping down on the influence of police unions on the disciplinary process to making that process more transparent.
The New Jersey Senate Committee on Law and Public Safety held hearings on police reform in June. One of the bills that was debated was S2656, which would make public police internal affairs and disciplinary records. Numerous civil rights and other organizations are supporting the bill.
The bill would remove the Open Public Records Act exception to police internal affairs records and grant the public access to complaints, allegations and charges filed against individual police officers; transcripts and exhibits from disciplinary trials and hearings; dispositions of proceedings; final written opinions and/or memoranda on the disposition and the discipline ultimately imposed, including the agency’s factual findings and analysis of the conduct of the officer(s) that was/were the subject(s) of the hearing; internal affairs records; and video recordings of the incidents underlying the complaint(s), charges, or internal affairs investigation.