As reported by NJ.com, all police officers in New Jersey are now subject to random drug-testing under a directive from the State’s new Attorney General. Police Departments are also required to implement “early warning systems” triggered by problem behavior such as misconduct accusations, lawsuits, domestic abuse and drunken driving under a separate directive announced by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office.
Grewal said that most police departments and county prosecutors already have such policies in place. The two new directives would mandate them statewide. “We support our officers in their difficult jobs, and at times that means intervening with a troubled officer to protect the public, the individual officer, and his or her fellow officers,” he said in a statement announcing the move.
Under the new rules, every state, county, and local law enforcement agency is required to conduct one random drug screening in 2018 and perform such tests twice a year going forward. Departments are required to report any failed tests, or officers who refuse a test, as well as any resulting discipline to the county prosecutor or other supervising agency.
Additionally, the early warning system requirement spells out 15 “performance indicators” that would flag an officer for possible review if any three of them occur in a given year. The indicators include internal affairs complaints, lawsuits, criminal investigations targeting the officer, excessive force, domestic violence, drunken driving, sexual harassment and performance issues including insubordination and neglect o duty, amongst others. To this end, departments are required to create tracking systems that would flag potential problem officers for review and provide written notification to an oversight agency.
The new policies are the second major police accountability effort undertaken by the office during Grewal’s first few months on the job. Last month, the Attorney General announced a new policy requiring the release of videos from police shootings in most cases, a reversal for his office, which has long held such videos should be kept from public view.
The requirement that all NJ police officers are now subject to random drug testing is something all officers must be aware of going forward. Although most agencies and/or departments already have a random drug testing policy in place, the same are now required statewide. Moreover, all officers must be mindful of “performance indicators” as they pertain to the implementation of “early warning systems” as well. As you can expect, several of these “performance indicators” do not correlate with substance abuse and/or troubled behavior by a law enforcement officer in any meaningful way. As such, we suspect several issues will arise amongst departments and collective negotiations units in the future as to whether the presence of these “performance indicators” truly justify any actions taken in relation thereto.
Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain important updates affecting all New Jersey Public Safety Officers.