#NewJersey state lawmakers moved forward on a criminal justice reform measure that aims to enhance accountability for #police officers. The proposed legislation would grant subpoena power to civilian review boards, empowering them to investigate complaints against police officers. While some New Jersey communities, including #Newark, already have citizen-led boards, their impact is limited without the authority to subpoena witnesses and evidence.
During a committee hearing, supporters argued that the bill is crucial because existing systems fail to ensure fair self-policing by the police. Concerns were raised about the lack of trust in both the police and the government controlling them. Residents shared stories of alleged police misconduct and brutality, emphasizing the need for civilian oversight.
Despite the advancement of the bill by a 3-1 vote, several amendments disappointed reform advocates. One provision limits the creation of boards to Newark, #JerseyCity, #Paterson, and #Trenton under a five-year pilot program. Another amendment removes an $800,000 appropriation for training new board members. Critics argued that all 564 municipalities in the state should have the right to decide on civilian oversight.
Reformers also raised objections to a provision requiring boards to turn over misconduct complaints to police internal affairs investigators, giving them a 120-day head start for investigation. Critics argued that involving internal affairs investigators in civil review boards' work could undermine the credibility of the boards among community members who already distrust the police.
Regardless of imperfections, the bill's sponsors expressed hope and progress in the right direction. However, not everyone supported the measure, with the president of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association urging committee members to vote against it, citing concerns about legislating good cops and a perceived anti-police sentiment affecting recruiting nationwide. The Senate version of the bill is yet to be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate's Law and Public Safety Committee.
Link: J City Times