In a letter to the editor, New Jersey State Association Chiefs of Police President Ed Kerr gives his take on what the police chief’s bill of rights means for law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
There was a published report on Jan. 9 in the Hudson County View in which a local mayor was quoted advocating for a review of the so-called police chief’s “Bill of Rights.”
There was some assumption, it appears, that police chiefs throughout New Jersey can act with impunity, with absolutely no restriction.
That is obviously not true; further, this mayor is confusing two different laws.
First and foremost, police chiefs suspected of criminal acts are investigated by county, state, or federal prosecutors.
They are certainly not above the law, just like anyone else.
In regard to the so-called “Bill of Rights” that was referenced in the article, these are components of a critically important law, designed to insulate police operations from political interference.
A separate statute, (NJSA 40A:14-147), ensures police officers cannot be fired “for political reasons or for any cause other than incapacity, misconduct, or disobedience of rules and regulations.”
Our state’s courts have stated that these statutory provisions prevent politicians from “interfering with the police department’s daily functioning and the assignment of police personnel.”
New Jersey faces many challenges; a lack of improper political influence is not among them.
In a world without a “Bill of Rights” that shields police chiefs from political threats and interference, politicians would have free reign to turn police departments into their private agencies – compelled to obey the politically-motivated whims or suffer the repercussions.
When discussing law enforcement, we expect our public officials to be accurate, as misinformation leads to mistrust.
The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to serve as a resource for anyone who requires clarification of police powers.
Those who assume police chiefs in New Jersey can do whatever they want are wrong. And it is important for us to keep reminding the public of that fact.
Chief, Spring Lake Police Department
President, New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police