from the to-the-shock-of-Ms.-Louise-but-nobody-else dept
Guess who doesn’t want to police themselves. If you guessed “police,” you win nothing but more years of zero accountability. Everybody seems to know cops don’t want to be held responsible for their actions, but those capable of forcing cops to be accountable for their actions seem willing to let the status quo remain in effect.
Doing nothing and expecting cops to be better is like being an absentee landlord who thinks property values will increase without dealing with your worst tenants. It’s as insane as believing everyone will become a better person by removing any deterrents to them becoming worse.
We can always appreciate a government entity calling out other government entities on their bullshit. But the appreciation is always tempered by the realization that pointing out bullshit rarely results in elimination of said bullshit.
That takes us to this: the totally expected news that law enforcement agencies are ignoring accountability mandates put in place by people who could theoretically control cops, but always seem to find other things to do with their time.
An overwhelming majority of police departments in New Jersey failed to meet state requirements for encouraging the public to report police misconduct, according to a new report released by the state comptroller.
The report focused on a mandate handed down by the Attorney General’s Office in 2019 that updated policies for how police departments must handle internal affairs reports. Specifically, the state required the departments to update their websites to include certain forms and remove warnings that submitting a false report could have legal consequences.
Released on Wednesday, the report states the OSC reviewed 100 websites for municipal police departments throughout the state. It found 80% of the departments surveyed did not meet a basic requirement to have a link to a form on their websites.
The news station apparently couldn’t find any way to link to the report, much less upload it to its site. We’ll do New Jersey 101.5’s job for it. Here’s the state comptroller report [PDF] delivering the dirt on state law enforcement’s unwillingness to better itself, an effort that begins by screwing over the public.
Sure, no one likes to be criticized. But cops aren’t like regular people. They have ways to ensure they’re not officially criticized by the people they’re supposed to be serving.
OSC found that 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, OSC 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.
It’s not just cops blowing off state mandates. It’s cops aggressively and deliberately discouraging people from complaining about the subpar service they’re receiving from these particular public servants. It’s cops abusing their power to prevent people from detailing other abuses of power.
Filing a complaint should be a simple process — one that should be treated seriously by the agency whose officers are being complained about. The reverse is happening. New Jersey agencies are preventing complaints from being filed. Deterring negative reports is basically cops shops lying to their oversight. These forcible omissions allow cops to pretend they’re better than they are. And those hoping to see some accountability for wrongdoing are being intimidated out of exercising their right to seek redress for constitutional violations.
Do you want to know how little New Jersey law enforcement agencies care what the communities they serve think about the job they’re doing? Nearly a third of state law enforcement agencies refused to even provide an online citizen complaint form.
OSC’s review revealed that, out of the 100 departments reviewed, 31 did not have any report form available online.
31% of agencies extended a middle finger to the general public, as well as the state legislature, which mandated online complaint forms four years ago. Those are not the actions of agencies that fear being held responsible for violating citizens’ rights, much less state law. Those are the actions of agencies that know they’ll never have to answer for a majority of their illegal actions.
60% of agencies used non-compliant forms when they could be bothered to provide one at all. More than three-quarters of the state’s agencies did not provide forms in the mandated languages. Nearly 30% of the audited agencies used “non-standardized” forms in violation of state mandates. The most common violation? Not informing complainants their inclusion of personal info was optional — something that suggests nearly of third of the state’s law enforcement agencies hoped their non-compliant complaint forms would allow them to identify complainants — the sort of thing that often leads to cops harassing critics in hopes of silencing them.
Nearly half of the audited agencies couldn’t even be bothered to upload information about how to file a complaint. Of the 100 randomly sampled by the comptroller, only 18 managed to comply with at least some aspects of the mandate.
This is garbage. The public shouldn’t stand for it. And it doesn’t. Unfortunately, cops have shown again and again they hold the power and those holding their purse strings are unwilling to tangle with their powerful lobbyists and unions. In the end, the public bears the costs of legislative cowardice. They pay for the lawsuit settlements. They pay the salaries of the cops who abuse them on a regular basis.
While this report does at least perform the public service of telling the public how underserved they are, it’s the legislation that needs to take this information and leverage it to demand greater public accountability from the lawbreakers in law enforcement clothes. But, if history is any indication, this will become just another data point in the law enforcement’s downward trajectory — a trend legislators have proven time and time again they’re unwilling to change.