Earlier this month, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office completed a two-month internal affairs investigation into the conduct of Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove and concluded that, over the course of many years, Director Cosgrove described his staff using derogatory terms, including racist and misogynistic slurs. In response, earlier this week, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office (UCPO) assumed responsibility for the internal affairs functions of the Elizabeth Police Department (EPD).
One of the core responsibilities of an effective law enforcement leader is to maintain the trust of the community he or she serves. Director Cosgrove has violated that trust and, in doing so, undermined confidence in our system of justice. I believe that Director Cosgrove should resign his position immediately.
Conduct like this requires a prompt, comprehensive response. For that reason, I am invoking my authority under the Criminal Justice Act of 1970 and taking the following steps:
- Effective immediately, I am designating Jennifer Davenport, First Assistant Attorney General, to serve as the Acting Prosecutor of Union County. Among other responsibilities, Acting Prosecutor Davenport will ensure that UCPO exercises appropriate oversight of the Elizabeth Police Department and works to rebuild trust with the community and external stakeholders. During this time, she will continue her service as First Assistant Attorney General.
- In addition, I am designating Joseph Walsh, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, to serve as Counsel to Acting Prosecutor Davenport. Mr. Walsh, who spent more than fifteen years as a police officer in Burlington County before becoming a prosecutor, will, among other responsibilities, oversee the internal affairs functions of the EPD.
- I am further directing that Acting Prosecutor Davenport conduct an audit of EPD’s workplace culture, including its hiring and promotional practices. I have asked that the Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) assist with that effort.
- Finally, I am directing that Acting Prosecutor Davenport ensure that all EPD managers and officers are appropriately trained on matters of implicit bias and sexual harassment.
Here in New Jersey, we have worked hard to strengthen trust between police and the communities we serve, and we have no patience for those who fail to recognize that our ultimate responsibility is to the laws of this State and the people of New Jersey. While I have great faith in the men and women who make up the Elizabeth Police Department, it is apparent that their Director has fallen short.