Local governments in New Jersey have had to pay out more than $42 million over the last 10 years because of police criminality and abuse, according to a new series of investigative reports by the Asbury Park Press. The report found at least 19 deaths, 131 injuries, and seven sexual assaults that resulted in settlement payouts in New Jersey. Many of the officers involved remain on duty.
The report also reveals systemic failures that have contributed to a lack of accountability of police officers. Weak oversight and accountability mechanisms that contribute to cursory investigations or instances of obvious conflicts of interest arise, such as the handling of a brutality complaint against Atlantic City officer Andrew Jaques, who had his case investigated by his uncle.
A lack of statewide authority on professional standards allows problem cops to bounce among the state’s 466 local departments. In other parts of the U.S., a domestic violence arrest, a sustained misconduct allegation, or a failed psych exam might lead to an officer being decertified to work in law enforcement, state-wide. Not so in Jersey, where in addition to cash payouts, settlements with terminated officers often include agreements not to disclose disciplinary histories or misconduct allegations to other departments where the officer might seek employment.
Another contributing factor to the lack of police accountability is the practice of settling claims with taxpayer money, rather than challenging protective laws and police unions willing to spend substantial amounts on litigation. Additionally, cops facing termination can sue to keep or regain their jobs, imposing significant costs on the jurisdictions trying to get rid of them. “In scores of lawsuits, the pattern is the same,” the newspaper notes. “Towns routinely take the path of least resistance, at taxpayer expense, to minimize their liability.... Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent, nobody admits wrongdoing and officers accused of misconduct often remain in place.”
Source: Asbury Park Press
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