Jersey City Council members James Solomon and Denise Ridley withdrew their ordinance to create a local Civilian Complaint Review Board from the Feb. 24 council agenda.
The measure, which would create a civilian board to provide community oversight of the Jersey City Police Department, is set to be introduced on March 10.
According to Ridley, the introductory ordinance was withdrawn so that the sponsors can continue to meet with council members.
“We have meetings set up with all the different council people,” said Ridley, noting that she has received several questions from residents about the board.
“Solomon and I want to make sure we do get this as right as possible,” she said. “Just as with any ordinance we combine to work on …. it’s a process. It’s a delicate dance … to figure out the best way to do this.”
According to Ridley and Solomon, the introductory ordinance would not create a CCRB as soon as it is adopted by the council on second reading, but it does include a trigger mechanism that would allow it to take effect as soon as the state adopts legislation that would give CCRB’s subpoena and investigatory powers, and funding for training.
That state legislation, introduced in September by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, has been sent to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, according to the state’s online bill tracker.
As currently written, the CCRB would be composed of 11 members. Five seats would be recommended by a committee composed of the three at-Large council members and various community organizations like the Jersey City Anti-violence Coalition Movement, Hudson Partnership CMO, JC NAACP, ACLU –NJ, and Jersey City Together. Nominees for the six other seats would be recommended by each ward councilperson, to ensure geographic representation, which would then be selected by the mayor, and approved by the council.
The CCRB would have subpoena power and be able to investigate individual complaints and police policy and procedure questions.
Currently, investigations of officer misconduct are handled within the JCPD through the Internal Affairs Unit that does not publicly disclose information about its investigations other than summary statistics regarding the number and disposition of complaints.
The CCRB would vote on its findings and make discipline recommendations for each case. The Public Safety Director would retain the final decision-making power over discipline, but he or she must then appear before the CCRB and explain the discipline decision if it is different from that which the CCRB recommended.
The CCRB would also release data on all aspects of the Jersey City Police Department’s operations to ensure transparency and accountability.
Local activists have worked toward an independent CCRB for years.
According to Pamela Johnson, executive director of the JCACM, in Jersey City, a Black person is nearly 500 percent more likely than a white person to have force used on them by police officers.
“Our current tools to keep racism, corruption, and ‘bad apples’ out of our police department aren’t working,” she said in an email asking residents to voice their support for a local CCRB.
She noted that between 2013 and 2019, the JCPD’s Internal Affairs Unit received 206 excessive force complaints and only sustained two.
According to Johnson, Jersey City needs a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) with teeth—that has subpoena power to investigate police misconduct; can publicly publish info about the complaints it receives; and can, based on these documented patterns of misbehavior, make recommendations about what operations, policies, and procedures need to be changed.
To view the introductory ordinance as currently written, go to https://tinyurl.com/ejdtsrcj.