New measure would require two independent investigators to look into police-related deaths
(TRENTON) – Deputy Majority Leader Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) and Deputy Speaker Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) have introduced a measure that would require two independent investigators to investigate all instances where a police officer or state trooper, is by act or omission, involved with a fatal incident while performing his or her official duties.
“This bill represents a proactive response to troubling news from around the country,” explained Gusciora. “By introducing critical oversight and accountability to the Internal Affairs investigation process, which has historically been closed from the public eye, this legislation would give our police officers additional credibility by affirming their actions, while simultaneously building public confidence about law enforcement in general.”
The bill (A-3756), modeled after a Wisconsin bill passed earlier this year, would address those situations in which the use of deadly force by law enforcement is excessive, unnecessary, or inappropriate. “There are certainly instances when police are more than justified in using their weapons. As a prosecutor, I understand as well as anyone the dangers our officers face on daily basis, and I’m not asking them to risk their lives more than they already are” Gusciora explained. “However, there are cases when deadly force is, given the circumstances, patently unjustifiable.”
Johnson, a former Bergen County Sherriff and second prime sponsor on the initiative, spoke to its merits by explaining that “it’s important to recognize that the police provide our communities with an incredibly valuable service. However, it’s equally important to realize that oversight is a critical component of any government agency, and that oversight of police is limited.”
Gusciora and Johnson believe that the initiative will ultimately serve the interests of all those involved.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this process would be mutually beneficial. Both the public and the police would, as a result of these investigations, have conclusive proof that law enforcement acted appropriately,” said Gusciora. “Similarly, in those infrequent instances where an officer is found to have acted inappropriately, both the police and the public have the benefit of having a bad actor removed, which only serves to enhance public trust and police credibility.”