In an effort to restore faith and trust in local police departments, Attorney General Matt Platkin issued a series of directives that law enforcement officers throughout New Jersey must follow. Some of these directives concern the accessibility of the internal affairs process to the public. A significant change involved standardizing the internal affairs report form that law enforcement agencies statewide must use, and making that standardized form available in 11 languages.
100 randomly selected municipal police departments’ websites were reviewed for compliance with the current internal affairs policies and procedures. Specifically, the websites were reviewed for availability of the standardized internal affairs report form and complaint information sheet, along with other markers of an electronically accessible internal affairs complaint process.
The majority of municipal police departments were not following all of the relevant mandates with respect to the information they were making available online about the internal affairs complaint process. Further, it was found that many of the departments were engaging in practices either intended to discourage complaints or that could have a chilling effect, especially with regard to complaints made by undocumented persons, non-English speakers, and anonymous sources.
As set forth more fully below:
- 80 percent of police departments failed to provide the mandatory standardized report form in all of the required languages online.
- 60 percent of police departments did not have any report form available online or did not use the mandatory standardized form.
- 32 percent of police departments required a sworn statement and/or added warnings online about the potential consequences of false reporting, directly contradicting the Attorney General’s policy explicitly prohibiting both.
- 60 percent of police departments did not establish a system for submitting complaints online — not even through a dedicated internal affairs email address — which, while not required, was a recommendation of the Attorney General for those departments that have a website.