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Last updated March 5, 2020
No knock warrants
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. While New Jersey did institute increased scrutiny on no-knock warrant requests in 2001, they have yet to impose any increased restrictions on their use in law enforcement. The state does not track requests for these warrants as of 2020.
Pending Legislation: In June, 2020, Rep. Wimbley introduced A4268 in the NJ General Assembly calling for the banning of no-knock warrants.
In 2015, New Jersey passed a law requiring local governmental approval for police requests for military equipment through the DoD's 1033 program. While this ordinance does not prohibit participation in the program, it guarantees a level of oversight over these requests the state previously lacked.
Military style training
In December 2020, AG Gubir Grewal (D) significantly revised NJ's use-of-force policies to require de-escalation whenever possible, institute a duty-to-intervene policy, and expand consequences for violating any of these policies. Though these measures don't explicitly address the militant mentality of police officers, they are a step in the right direction.
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use. The State's 2019 Excellence in Policing Initiative recommended increased requirements for cataloging and analyzing incidents of the use of force, including the deployment of SWAT teams. However, these goals have not been codified through legislation.
Civil asset forfeiture
As of January 2020, prosecutors in New Jersey must to secure a criminal conviction to forfeit property valued at or below $10,000, or less than $1,000 in cash (a large majority of property seized). Though this policy curtails the use of civil asset forfeiture, it doesn't eliminate it.
In 2013, New Jersey passed a law banning ticket quotas and limiting the usage of policing statistics in funding considerations, but in many agencies, officers are still evaluated based on the number of arrests they make.
Pending Legislation: A4058, introduced in January 2021, "prohibits law enforcement agencies from considering number of arrests made and citations issued when evaluating police officer's professional performance."
Cost of misconduct
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct.
Loitering in New Jersey has been decriminalized since 1978. However other non-violent crimes remain criminalized. NJ voters indicated their support for legalized marijuana use through a Nov. 2020 ballot referendum. But, amendments added to the 2020 decriminalization bill (A-1897) led the Assembly to cancel a November vote on the bill.
Pending Legislation: In June 2020, legislators introduced a bill to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses and non-violent property crimes The bill was passed by the Assembly, revised and passed by the Senate, and now must be revised again by the Assembly (under the bill # A5266) before the governor can sign.
Objective justification for stops
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop (i.e. not simply for furtive movement, suspicious activity, or matching a generalized description). New Jersey law is extremely lenient towards police officers in this regard. There are numerous acceptable reasons, such as not having a bell on a bicycle, for initiating a stop.
Reporting stop details
As part of the reforms implemented by AG Gurbir Grewal (D) in December 2020, law enforcement agencies must "document all uses of force by their officers or risk investigation by county prosecutors or the attorney general’s office."
Pending Legislation: A4273, introduced in January 2021, requires the comprehensive reporting and public presentation of traffic stop data, dis-aggregated by race, age, gender, reason for the stop, and result of the stop. The bill also institutionalizes the publication of this data.
Reckless civil rights violation
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law institutionalizing an independent prosecutor within the state’s Department of Justice for instances of police misconduct. However, New Jersey's 2019 Excellence in Policing Initiative (a package of recommendations, not laws, overseen by the state AG) encourages increased accountability for law enforcement.
Pending Legislation: A3650 codifies the use of an independent investigator in any use of force incident or case of officer-involved death or serious injury.
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity. In fact, in Morillo v Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office (2015), the Supreme Court of NJ reaffirmed the legitimacy of qualified immunity.
Mental health response
New Jersey has not yet enacted a law creating and funding a mental health task force available to respond to crisis calls (in lieu of police).
Pending Legislation: A4366, passed by the Assembly on 7/30/20, would require the state training authority to "contract with crisis intervention
training center to provide mental health training to police officers and establish curriculum specific to persons experiencing economic crisis or substance use
disorder." Another bill, S686, would establish a Statewide Mental Illness Diversion Program to divert mentally ill individuals away from the justice systems and towards appropriate case management and mental health services.
Education, Housing, Community Health Resources
It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.
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