Before she leaves her post as State Attorney General, Paula Dow is facing some criticism on the new reporting forms she rolled out to reportedly improve accountability among police internal affairs units. The problem, say many, is that the forms don’t require departments to note how many investigations are open at the close of the year. For others, despite this minor oversight, the reports are a step in the right direction.
Under the new system, prosecutors for the county are tasked with monitoring police complaints and correcting discrepancies among internal affairs units. The form that is facing criticism is designed for the public to review the departments’ data on internal affairs investigations.
From 2000 to 2008, it was found that one in every ten complaints at the Newark police department’s internal affairs was not reported to the Attorney General. Reporting such complaints is required by law. Also, of 90,423 complaints only 86,925 dispositions were made available to the public, a real problem for accountability.
The police departments maintain that any dispositions that were not made publicly available were due to “clerical errors”. If that’s truly the case, perhaps some clerical training is in order. 3,498 clerical errors seem to be evidence of a different sort of problem.
The bottom line is that the people of New Jersey want to know that investigations into police misbehavior are being treated appropriately. When they can’t trust the departments because everything is done behind closed doors, this will be reflected in their respect for the officers on the streets.
The ACLU of New Jersey is criticizing the new forms, stating that they represent a step backward rather than forward, that “it’s the more serious internal affairs complaints that take longer to investigate,” and that disclosing how many are open at years end can provide a more accurate snapshot of what departments are doing to address citizen concerns.
Other new policies implemented under Dow, however, are receiving props. Departments must not track complaints by officer in order to look for patterns and officers who might be getting more than their share of complaints. The departments must also make public any serious investigations, though they aren’t required to name officers. Also, there is more money being invested in training.
Dow shared her thoughts about police accountability to the public when she said, “It is absolutely critical that law enforcement agencies investigate allegations against officers thoroughly and fairly, and that we provide the public with meaningful data about the complaints.” Unfortunately, not everyone thinks her actions reflect those words.
When you are mistreated by the police, you want to know that your accusations are taken seriously. You know that if you are accused of breaking the law, the state will take those accusations seriously. If you are facing criminal charges and want someone in your corner, advocating on your behalf—contact my offices today.