ACLU and Coalition Groups Demand Independent Auditor and Civilian Review Board For State Police

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
July 13, 1999 12:00 am

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NEWARK — After government reports acknowledged that State Police were guilty of racial profiling and other discriminatory practices, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and coalition groups today called upon Governor Christine Whitman to make State Police accountable to independent bodies, rather than just the Attorney General’s office.

The coalition organizations demanding the change included the Black Ministers Council, Black N.I.A. Force, New Jersey Coalition Against Police Brutality, New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, People’s Organization for Progress, UHURU Organization, and the ACLU of New Jersey.

In its July 2 final report, the Governor’s State Police Review Team acknowledged racism, sexism, intimidation, retaliation, and other misconduct in the State Police. In an April 20 interim report, the review team also said that State Police have practiced racial profiling.

The coalition organizations found the review team’s admissions and recommendations for reform to be fundamentally inadequate.

“The Governor’s idea of a solution is to assign the Attorney General to watch over the State Police,” said Kevin Keenan, Acting Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “The Attorney General’s Office has been part of the problem. What’s needed is external accountability that will truly restore the public’s faith in policing.”

The coalition groups also said that the interim and final reports minimize the depth and severity of racism and sexism in the New Jersey State Police. They avoid substantiating any policy, practice, or incidents of internal racism or sexism other than racial profiling, which was already proven in a 1996 court case (Soto v. New Jersey). Even with racial profiling, the state attempts to paint the problems of the State Police as the work of a few bad apples. The reports provide no independent mechanism or authority to ensure that reforms are implemented fully, on time, or at all.

“The Governor’s reports are a whitewash on racism and sexism in the State Police,” said King Downing of the People’s Organization for Progress. “The reports themselves are proof that the state cannot be relied on to police itself.”

Reverend Dwight Gill of the Black Ministers Council also voiced the necessity for a civilian complaint review board and an outside auditor.

“This will to ensure that the State fulfills its promise of a new, improved State Police force,” Gill said. “Without those mechanisms, the public will continue – with good reason – to doubt the integrity of the State Police.”

Civilian complaint review boards have been put in place in dozens of cities over the past thirty years – so many that there are two professional associations of civilian review boards. Independent Police Auditors have been hired in San Jose, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. In 1996, the Los Angeles Police Department hired an inspector general to review the operations of the Internal Affairs Division. In 1996, the Philadelphia Police gave broad auditing powers to the ACLU and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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