On Thursday, January 15, 2015, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will discuss Senate Bill No. 1236 which seeks to establish a two-year pilot program placing the Edison Township (Middlesex County) Police Department’s internal affairs function under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Attorney General. Important for transparency advocates are amendments proposed by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) that would require the Attorney General to “publicly disclose the internal affairs complaints, investigative reports and internal affairs dispositions for each internal affairs matter that was processed during the two year pilot program.” NJFOG’s proposal is fully supported by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Peter J. Barnes, III (D-18), who has previously served on Edison’s municipal council.
Police internal affairs cases are shrouded in secrecy and very little information about them is ever revealed to the public. This makes it impossible for the public to know whether or not the internal affairs process is working properly. The internal affairs process, like every other governmental function, works better when it is subject to meaningfully public inspection and oversight.
The Committee hearing, which is open to the public, will start at 10 a.m. Although the meeting’s location has not yet been announced, the Committee typically meets in Committee Room 10, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton. Citizens interested in observing or testifying at the hearing should call Committee Aide Wendy S. Whitbeck at 609-847-3870 the day prior to confirm the hearing’s date, hour and location.
By John Paff
Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project