As reported by NJ.com, state lawmakers are pushing dueling proposals to rebuild the public’ trust of investigations into police misconduct as racial tensions continue to flare in Ferguson, Mo., where two police officers were shot and seriously injured. A State Senate panel discussed a bill that would require special prosecutors to be appointed any time a criminal complaint is filed against a police officer, taking the matter out of the hands of county prosecutors and removing the possibility of a conflict of interest.
The lead sponsor of the measure, State Sen. Peter Barnes, said the matters should be handled by a state grand jury and that, in case that do no result in an indictment, the transcripts of the proceedings should be released to the public. Another measure, introduced last year in the Assembly, would require independent investigators be appointed to review all officer-involved deaths, a change that was also recommended this month by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Assembly Bill would also require the prosecutor to release a report on the investigation and presentation to a grand jury in cases that do no result in a criminal indictment.
The bill received a mixed reception by fellow members of the Law and Public Safety Committee, with some arguing that, without restrictions, it would result in a mountain of work and require a lot of money because anyone can file a criminal complaint. “Any police officer can get charged at any time from anyone,” said Sen. Nicholas Sacco. “If they’re going to have to face some sort of grand jury on the state level, I really wonder how efficient this would be or how more effective it would be.” He added that some cases should be heard independently, “but they should be rare.”
A representative of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, Rob Nixon, opposed the bill, arguing county prosecutors are not afraid to indict police officers, and the proposal would severely delay the time it takes for a matter to be adjudicated.
Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain any updates regarding the proposed legislature.