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Leading NJ Public Information Attorney Blasts NJ AG's Disclosure of Law Enforcement Disciplinary Records Expansion

New Jersey

By: Richard L. Smith 

A leading public records expert and Partner and Director of the Justice Gary S. Stein, Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, blasted N.J. Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin's new policy that is said to expand the public disclosure of serious misconduct by New Jersey law enforcement officers.  

In a statement released to RLS Media, Attorney CJ Griffin examined then expressed concerns over Attorney General Platkin's disclosure of report synopses of any "major discipline" issued each year—termination, demotion, or suspension of more than five days.

“This directive is a real disappointment”, Attorney CJ Griffin expressed in a statement.

On Tuesday, NJ Attorney General Plantkin  announced that the new policy would add the following categories of discipline to the annual release, regardless of the discipline imposed:

Discrimination or bias. Excessive force

Untruthfulness or lack of candor.

Filing a false report or submitting a false certification in any criminal, administrative, employment, financial, or insurance matter in their professional or personal life.

Intentionally conducting an improper search, seizure, or arrest.

Intentionally mishandling or destroying evidence.

Attorney General Platkin said his new initiative would reflect the same transparency interests, a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Rivera v. Union County Prosecutor's Office, 250 N.J. 124 (2022), requires that a range of internal affairs reports may be publicly accessible under the common law right of access upon request. 

Attorney CJ Griffin applauded the landmark N.J. Supreme Court decision as a step in the right direction. Still, he went on to say N.J. Attorney General's 2022-14 directive undermines the progress Pashman Stein Walder Hayden law firm fought years to obtain. 

CJ Griffin released the following statement: 

"Earlier this year, we obtained a landmark ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court in Rivera v. Union County Prosecutor's Office. That decision provided a path to access internal affairs for the first time ever, and as a result of that decision, we've been gaining access to them.

Instead of getting the full internal affairs report like we got in Rivera, the A.G. now orders agencies to make two "separate and distinct reports." The first report will have all the meats and potatoes of what we would get under the Rivera decision—the interview summaries, a recounting of the evidence, etc.

They want to keep that one a secret.

The second report will be a "summary and conclusions report," designed to be given to the public in response to a records request. It won't contain all the investigation evidence—it's going to be a sanitized summary of the internal affairs matter drafted by the I.A. unit, knowing it's what they have to send out to the public.

That's not real transparency, and we have too many examples of the police telling the public one thing, only to learn later that it was not full, fair, accurate, or sometimes downright false. Real transparency is giving us the actual internal affairs investigation report, which we won access to in the Rivera decision.

Under no other circumstances would we accept that the government can create two versions of a document, keep one for itself, and give the other to the public. The reason we have public records laws is so that we can gain access to original documents, not summaries of documents". 


N.J. Attorney General Platkin said transparency is fundamental to ensuring confidence in the work of law enforcement," said Attorney General Platkin. 

"These disclosures of police internal affairs information are an unprecedented step in promoting that transparency and a continuation of our efforts with respect to greater accountability and professionalism. The relationships between law enforcement and community members will be better served by making this information publicly available."