If the allegation was not sustained, the letter shall provide the complainant with a brief explanation why the complaint was not sustained (e.g., insufficient proof, lack of witnesses, etc.). If the allegation was sustained and discipline was imposed, the letter shall simply state that the allegation was sustained and that the officer has been disciplined according to department procedures. It is not necessary to specify the discipline imposed.
“Insufficient proof” and “lack of witnesses” are vague assertions that can apply in almost every case. This is likely done to avoid providing evidence that could be used in a subsequent civil suit.
These notifications will likely lead to more civil suits against the police. They will serve as reminders of pending complaints that might otherwise be forgotten. They will also provide prima facie evidence if misconduct in instances in which discipline was imposed.
Law enforcement officers also should be aware that the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) has advised the public that, if a complainant has not received appropriate notification pursuant to this Directive, the complainant first must contact the local police department handling the complaint. After taking that step, if the issue is unresolved, the complainant may call the county prosecutor’s office overseeing that police department. Then, if the issue remains unresolved, the complainant may contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1(833)-4-SAFENJ or at www.safestopnj.com/complaint. OAG will provide an update on the status of the complaint within 30 days of receipt of the complaint. This Directive takes effect immediately. This Directive shall remain in force and effect unless and until it is repealed, amended, or superseded by Order of the Attorney General.
The last paragraph puts a burden on local law enforcement. It is makes it clear that the AG’s Office will only get involved as a last resort.