Office of the State Comptroller review makes recommendations to strengthen New Jersey State Police internal affairs investigations and disciplinary processes

OSC’s seventh review of the NJSP examined their Office of Professional Standards which oversees Trooper misconduct complaints.

TRENTON – The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) released its seventh performance review of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), finding that their processes for handling complaints of State Trooper misconduct generally comply with professional standards while identifying areas in which changes should be made.

“Our review focused on NJSP’s internal affairs investigations and disciplinary processes, both of which play a critical role in preventing racial discrimination by State Troopers,” said Acting State Comptroller Kevin D. Walsh. “Although our review found general compliance with governing procedures for misconduct complaints, we identified several weaknesses and have provided recommendations that will further strengthen NJSP’s professional standards and efforts to prevent discrimination.”

OSC is required by state law to review NJSP and the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEPS), the division within the Office of the Attorney General that oversees NJSP’s internal investigations and disciplinary processes for misconduct complaints. OSC’s oversight responsibilities stem from the settlement of a 1999 lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against NJSP and the State of New Jersey for intentional racial discrimination against African-American drivers.

In its seventh such review, OSC examined OLEPS and the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), the NJSP unit in charge of receiving complaints made against State Troopers, processing such complaints, and imposing discipline when necessary.

OSC found that NJSP’s public website did not have an email address for complaint submissions. After OSC raised the issue, NJSP updated their website to include an email address. As a result of this change, NJSP has reported an increase in the number of complaints received.

The review also found that NJSP’s public website featured disclaimer language warning potential complainants that they could be subject to criminal prosecution for filing a false complaint. Such a threat of prosecution could have a chilling effect on complaints submitted to NJSP. In response to OSC’s report, the NJSP removed the warning from its website.

OSC recommends that the Attorney General conduct a review to ensure internal discipline is administered fairly and discrimination based on race, gender or rank is not occurring.

OSC’s review of 39 completed misconduct case files found that OPS reached reasonable conclusions in each of the cases. 

However, OSC found that OPS classified some complaints as “administratively closed” when they should have been classified as performance issues. The “performance” classification is supposed to be used when a State Trooper is, for example, unprofessional or rude during a traffic stop, but does not commit serious misconduct.

Instead, OPS created a new classification, “Administratively Closed with Other Action Taken”, in such instances and eliminated the performance classification altogether. This was done without the required approval of the Attorney General and without written documentation detailing the reasons the change was made. Such a change could result in a State Trooper’s performance issues going undocumented and unaddressed.

OSC’s 2020 report, its sixth on NJSP, focused on the documentation and supervisory review of motor vehicle stops and post-stop enforcement activity by the NJSP.

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) is an independent State agency that works to make government in New Jersey more efficient, transparent and accountable. OSC is tasked with examining all aspects of government expenditures, conducts audits and investigations of government agencies throughout New Jersey, reviews government contracts, and works to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicaid.

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