Police reform in NJ

| 26 Jul 2022 | 12:12

    Finally, some police reform in New Jersey. The Legislature has passed, and Governor Phil Murphy has signed, legislation that establishes uniform standards throughout the state for the licensing and continued employment of police officers. The bills, S2742 and A4194, passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities of 40-0 and 70-8 (2 Assemblymen not voting), respectively. Of course, as one might expect, both of Sussex County’s Assemblymen voted against the bill. They apparently don’t favor police reform.

    So I’d like to pose the following questions to Hal Wirths and Parker Space: Why to you oppose having police to have a license to perform their duties? Employment is a privilege, not a right. What is your objection for having all police officers follow the same standards for hiring and firing? What’s wrong with requiring officers to pass a psychological examination and continue to take training courses through their career? Do you object to prohibiting officers from joining extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other extremist organizations that advocate anti-government positions and the overthrow of the government, as well as those who discriminate against such groups as minorities, disabled, LGBTQ+, and other protected classes? Why would you oppose not licensing individuals who have a criminal record, or a history of domestic violence, or crimes of dishonesty such as fraud, or other offenses that call their moral character into question? Why is there an objection to prohibiting “dirty cops” from resigning from one department and joining one in another town in order to avoid being fired, which would sabotage their chances for future employment in law enforcement? What’s wrong with New Jersey joining 46 other states which have passed similar legislation? And finally, why would you not join with the state PBA, state troopers’ union, community leaders, civil rights advocates and 70 of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle who passed this necessary legislation?

    There’s still more to be done in future legislation. The bill that was passed does not end “qualified immunity,” the unwritten doctrine used by police as a shield against both criminal and civil accountability for acts of misconduct, such as violations of Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures, assaults, shootings, and other questionable acts. Future legislation should not only include ending QI, but needs to make internal affairs investigations public and strengthen the authority of civilian review boards. But that’s for another day.

    For now, New Jersey has taken a huge step in improving the quality of law enforcement. And let’s make one thing clear — most police in the Garden State are honest, hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public with honor, integrity and compassion. This legislation will not hinder them. It directed at the low-hanging fruit that poisons the good officers, and will weed them out. The only question is: Why do Wirths and Space oppose this? The public deserves an answer.

    Michael Schnackenberg