Assembly Panel Moves Barnes & Johnson Bill to Allow Attorney General to Step into Internal Affairs Role in Troubled County/Municipal Law Enforcement Agencies

Measure Would Establish a Two-Year Pilot Program


(Trenton) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Peter J. Barnes III and Gordon M. Johnson to establish a pilot program that would give the Attorney General the authority to take over a county or municipal law enforcement agencies’ internal affairs office under certain circumstances was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The sponsors note the bill was proposed in response to the allegations of misconduct in Edison Police Department’s internal affairs unit late last year. As a result, the Attorney General’s Office now oversees the unit’s Internal Affairs Division requiring monthly reports on all investigations.

“With literally hundreds of law enforcement agencies in New Jersey, ranging in size from just a few officers up to several hundred, there is no uniform internal control,” said Assemblyman Barnes (D-Edison). “Transferring oversight will ensure that allegations of police misconduct will be investigated promptly and fairly.”

Currently each law enforcement agency has an internal affairs unit that is responsible for receiving, investigating and resolving complaints made against law enforcement officers in that agency.

“When a local law enforcement agency operates inefficiently and ineffectively, it is not serving the public,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “In these situations, agencies require oversight and management to get the unit back on track. AG’s involvement will ensure these agencies are operating honorably, fairly and in accordance with the law.”

Under the provisions, of the bill, county and municipal law enforcement agencies selected for the pilot program would no longer perform these internal affairs functions. The Attorney General would select the county and municipal law enforcement agencies to participate in the pilot program and would determine the criteria. A report evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot program from the Attorney General would be submitted to the Governor and Legislature at the end of the program. In addition the report would make the recommendation as to whether the program should be expanded to include all county and municipal law enforcement agencies.

The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.