On Sept. 23 the Jersey City Council will vote on an introductory ordinance to create a local Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB).
The draft ordinance, sponsored by Ward E Councilman James Solomon and backed by the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement and the ACLU-NJ, enacts five core principles that aim to improve accountability and trust between the community and the Jersey City Police Department.
“We hold an uncontroversial belief: that everyone in Jersey City should be treated with dignity by police officers,” said Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement Director Pamela Johnson.”And that belief led us to model a CCRB that can really build trust between our officers and our community.”
Under the ordinance as currently drafted, the CCRB would be composed of members that represent the full economic and racial diversity of Jersey City with a majority nominated by independent longtime Jersey City community and civil rights organizations. The CCRB would have budget protections to ensure it is funded and able to conduct transparent investigations. It would also have disciplinary and subpoena power.
“These core principles define a strong CCRB,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “Without any one of them, the board’s ability to deliver independent oversight is severely diminished. We are excited to see an ordinance advance with key pillars in place to demonstrate to officials in Trenton the strong demand for CCRBs statewide.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that CCRBs cannot have subpoena power until granted by the state legislature.
State’s on the case
But elected officials at the state are already working on a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight which would allow municipalities to create CCRBs and grant them subpoena power.
The draft ordinance includes a “trigger mechanism” that allows Jersey City to immediately enact the ordinance, should the council adopt it, once state officials pass the bill authorizing strong CCRBs.
For more than three years, members of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition and other South Side community activists have called for a CCRB.
Beginning in June 2020, they met regularly with neighborhood residents, law enforcement representatives, Councilmen Solomon, the ACLU-NJ’s attorneys, and hosted a citywide August 19th town hall attended by more than 100 people.
Together, they’ve created a community-driven, researched ordinance providing Jersey City residents the authority to track, investigate, and create consequences for police misconduct in Jersey City, and to do so in a transparent way that builds community trust.
Currently, investigations of officer misconduct are handled within the JCPD through the Internal Affairs Unit which does not publicly disclose information about its investigations other than summary statistics regarding the number and disposition of complaints.
From 2013 to 2019 Professional Standards Summary Report Forms issued by the Division of Police indicate that the Internal Affairs Unit received 206 excessive-force complaints and sustained two of those complaints; received 51 improper arrest complaints and sustained zero of those complaints; and received 49 differential treatment complaints and sustained zero of those complaints.
“Our current tools to keep racism, corruption, and ‘bad apples’ out of our police department isn’t working,” said Chris Gadsden,Jersey City NAACP Chairperson of the Political Action Committee.”The Jersey City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit received 206 excessive-force complaints from 2013-2019, but sustained only two.”
The vote on the first reading is scheduled for the Sept. 23 council meeting at 6 p.m.
Meetings have been taking place virtually via Microsoft Teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information on how to join the meeting, go to https://cityofjerseycity.civicweb.net/portal/
To be added to the public speaking list go to https://cityofjerseycity.civicweb.net/Portal/CitizenEngagement.aspx