McKnight, Sumter, & Wimberly Bill Aims to Improve Relationships Between Law Enforcement & Their Communities
(TRENTON) — The Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee yesterday advanced bill A-1515, which would establish a five-year Municipal Civilian Review Board Pilot Program in New Jersey. The legislation would initially create civilian review boards in Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton, empowering residents to review police operations and conduct in their communities.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela V. McKnight and Shavonda E. Sumter and Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly, seeks to help foster transparency, fairness, and equity in policing practices and policies. It also aims to address allegations of misconduct within municipal police forces.
The legislation would enable a civilian review board to conduct investigations, make recommendations, review and investigate complaints filed with the board, and review any completed internal affairs investigations that are alleged to have missed evidence of police misconduct or failed to properly discipline law enforcement officer misconduct. The bill also grants the board the authority to issue subpoenas related to its investigations.
“A civilian review board plays a crucial role in demonstrating a commitment to fairness in the criminal justice system and shedding light on allegations of police misconduct,” said Assemblywoman McKnight (D-Hudson). “This oversight created through this legislation would send a powerful message that the community is being heard and that law enforcement is accountable to that community. This, in turn, fosters a sense of cooperation and collaboration between the police and the community that can lead to better outcomes when people need help.”
The bill tasks the New Jersey Attorney General with developing a civilian complaint system for residents to electronically, and anonymously, submit complaints of police misconduct.
To ensure residents have the knowledge needed to serve on civilian review boards, the bill requires the Attorney General to develop a training course for board members and employees. A board could not investigate the conduct of any law enforcement officers, or recommend the imposition of disciplinary measures, unless its members or employees have completed this training. Participants would be required to take a training course no less than once every two years.
Under the bill, a review board would consist of at least three members, appointed by the mayor or chief executive officer of the municipality.
“This legislation gives our communities a platform from which their voices can be heard on some of the most pressing issues affecting our residents,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Civilian review boards create a new avenue for our residents to give their insight and input on incidents of police misconduct, ensuring that transparency and accountability are at the forefront of police-community relations. With this measure, we are making clear that fair policing, equity under the law, and justice are non-negotiable.”