[OPINION] NJ Needs Police Internal Affairs Reform

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Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

by Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III

Let me start off by saying that I take no pleasure in what I am about to write. I am a lifelong resident of Edison and my father was Director of Public Safety. We have a serious and systemic problem in our police department that can no longer be addressed locally. For many years, the department has been plagued with corruption and stories that should make the good men and women in uniform cringe.

Last month, my bill creating a two year pilot program removing the Internal Affairs Division from the Edison Police and placing jurisdiction with the Attorney General passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. This is the first step in the right direction. However, we need the help of all the good people throughout New Jersey, including those who took an oath, to demand more oversight.

There are allegations of favoritism and abuse concerning the manner in which complaints have been handled. A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that an overwhelming number of departments are not following IA complaint procedures correctly. This speaks volumes about the need for more oversight, and this is evident time and time again, in many municipalities.

There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt while he was a New York City Police commissioner that I feel is appropriate, “I want every decent man on the force to know that I am his best friend, but every bad policeman we will get rid of as fast as we can.”

We need the Governor’s help to sign this bill. Since my proposal involves a pilot program, there is no reason why the Attorney General cannot support the measure.

The administration should consider taking over the IA divisions of several other towns as well. I note that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has performed admirably, but this legislation would potentially mandate the complete takeover of these divisions on a permanent basis.

There are no better men and women anywhere than those on the Edison police force. The problems within the Internal Affairs Division are not the only challenges, but this legislation is one piece of the puzzle designed to correct this blatant deficiency.

Assemblyman Barnes is a Democrat who represents the 18th Legislative District in Middlesex County. He is chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.


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