Recently, the Appellate Division issued an opinion in the case New Jersey State Police v. Trooper Brandon Bruns that addressed an officer’s failure to report the misconduct of another off-duty officer. In that case, following an internal investigation, the New Jersey State Police served a charge upon the appellant for his failure to report the misconduct of an off-duty trooper to which the appellant had knowledge. Specifically, the appellant was charged with violating Article V, Section 8 of the New Jersey State Police’s rules and regulations.
The appellant denied the charge and the matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Law and an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) for an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ rejected the appellant’s contention that he had no obligation to report the incident under the rules and regulations because he was off-duty at the time. The ALJ recommended that the appellant be suspended for thirty days, given this was the appellant’s third disciplinary infraction. The appellant then appeal to the Appellate Division.
The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the rules require members of the State Police to promptly report all crimes, breaches of the peace, misconduct, fires, and other significant events “that may come to [such] members’ attention.” In addition, the Court found the standard operating procedures provided that reportable incidents included “[a] complaint that a member [of the State Police] has engaged in misconduct whether on or off-duty.” According to the Court, the appellant had more than sufficient information to report the trooper’s misconduct and, therefore, affirmed the violation for his failure to report. More importantly, the Court held that the rules require a member to report crimes whether on or off-duty.
All New Jersey Public Safety Officers should be aware of their duties and responsibilities at all times. As this case illustrates, an Officer can be disciplined even though he/she did not engage in any misconduct, but failed to report the same, notwithstanding the alleged misconduct occurred in an off-duty capacity. Therefore, all Officers should be cognizant of the same to protect themselves going forward. Please continue to check this blog periodically for important updates concerning all New Jersey Public Safety Officers.