A police backlash against nationwide calls for reform picked up further momentum Thursday with the filing of a lawsuit by the New Jersey State Police union to prevent the release of names of troopers who have committed serious disciplinary violations.
The suit was filed a day after representatives of six top police unions in the state met with state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to discuss his order directing law enforcement agencies to publicize an annual list of officers who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation, NJ.com reported.
The unions threatened legal action to block wider release of the officers’ names.
Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said his group requested a stay with the attorney general to hold off on releasing the officers’ names.
The lawsuit said that for every trooper whose record is disclosed, “there is the strong likelihood that with the publication of their name, it will be relatively easy to determine where they live and work. It will unnecessarily impact the families of these Troopers who may have not been involved in the underlying disciplinary matter.”
The suit also said that releasing the names could indirectly identify a victim of a crime or a victim of domestic violence
Police resistance has been growing over proposals to create a national database of officers disciplined for misconduct in response to complaints about racial bias in use-of-force incidents.
The unions maintain such databases will endanger officer safety.
A spokesperson for the attorney general said in a statement, “We believe that transparency helps to build trust. We’re sorry to see that the police unions disagree.”
Calls for greater transparency in police records have been picking up steam since the emergence of nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month.
But the calls have been met with organized resistance by police lobby groups who have stepped by pressure against federal lawmakers to resist what they consider dangerous reforms, reports The New York Times.
“We’re not going to abdicate our rights,” said Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association.
New Jersey’s Grewal has been under pressure to reform police practices since a series of media investigative reports in 2018 and 2019 demonstrated wide gaps in police oversight, reports the Asbury Park Press.
The Force Report, a 16-month investigation by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, found major disparities in how police officers use force and who they use it against, as well as paltry oversight and no standard reporting practices.
Earlier this month, Grewal announced plans to expand the state’s use-of-force database and proposed a licensing program for law enforcement.
By the end of the year, he promised, New Jersey will use information from the database to update its use-of-force policies for the first time in two decades to “reflect the values of today.”
Additional Reading: NJ Attorney General Grewal Promises ‘Wholesale Reform’ on Police Use of Force.