Now with a special urgency in the aftermath of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin, the Legislative Black
Caucus wants Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) to post A-4656, which would establish a municipal civilian review board of local police departments – with subpoena power. Now under review, the legislation, sponsored in the upper house by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) and senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley Turner, evolved out of a Supreme Court decision in the case of the City of Newark’s efforts to establish a civilian board to oversee its police department.
“The verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial highlights the necessity of police oversight. It was the death of George Floyd that led me to call for a state law to allow the establishment of civilian review boards in all municipalities throughout New Jersey,” said McKnight. “This verdict is a good step in the right direction of justice but we have to make sure that police brutality and deadly use of force does not continue to go unchecked. This is why I’m committed to getting this bill passed into law and to make sure the law is strong and gives subpoena power to all CCRBs. The right time for a CCRB is always right now. This verdict doesn’t change that.”
The 6-1 decision struck down key parts of the city’s 2016 ordinance that created a civilian-complaint review board, which would have been one of the strongest agencies of its kind in the nation. The court ruled the board cannot be granted subpoena power, according to state law, and it may not conduct investigations at the same time as the police department’s internal affairs office is conducting its own. Only legislative action could grant those powers, the court asserted.
The city appealed the decision, while allies in the legislature moved the enabling legislation out of committee. The board list won’t be approved for a few weeks.
Coughlin, of course, has the Fraternal Order of Police – the organization that initially filed the lawsuit – in his other ear, opposing the legislation.
So a fight’s coming.
Tonight, on a call he hosted with Black leaders, Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp seized on the moment –
along with People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm and others – to prioritize the legislation.
“It is so critically important,” said Mapp, “to allow the rays of sunlight to penetrate into the process so we can hold those bad cops accountable. We have to DEMAND that they give us the ability to create civilian review boards with subpoena power.”
Coming from a rally in the aftermath of the verdict, Hamm used his time on the Zoom call to also press for the review board as a foundational next step.
“Critical,” the anti-police brutality activist told educator Bill Imani Davis, Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson and others.
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) – chair of the Black Legislative Caucus – wants the bill.
So does Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34).
“It is not enough to say George Floyd’s name, it is not enough to say Black Lives Matter, it is not enough to join a march,” said the East Orange based lawmaker. “As lawmakers we must legislate equity in a system that has for hundreds of years worked to profile, profit from incarcerating, and find a scapegoat in black and brown people. I fully support the civilian review board with full subpoena power while also fully supporting good non-racist law enforcement keeping us safe each day. Any interest group against this, and other social justice bills are on the wrong side of history and humanity.”
It authorizes the creation of local civilian review boards to review police operations and conduct, supplementing Title 40A of the New Jersey Statutes, amending N.J.S.40A:14-118 and P.L.1996, c.115, and making an appropriation.
A municipality may, by ordinance, establish a municipal civilian review board.
A municipal civilian review board shall consist of at least seven members appointed by the mayor or other chief executive officer of the municipality with the consent of the governing body of the municipality. The members shall be residents of the municipality with training or experience in community relations, civil rights, law enforcement, sociology, or other relevant fields. The members shall serve for terms of six years, except for the initial appointees, of whom, two shall serve initial terms of two years, two shall serve initial terms of four years, and the remaining members shall serve initial terms of six years. Members of a municipal civilian review board shall serve until their successors are appointed and qualified. A member may be reappointed to a municipal civilian review board.
The presence of four members of a municipal civilian review board shall constitute a quorum, except that the number of members required to form a quorum shall increase by one for each additional member of a municipal civilian review board over seven. The mayor or other chief executive officer of the municipality shall appoint a chairperson and a vice-chairperson from among the members of the municipal civilian review board. The chairperson and vice-chairperson shall serve for terms of two years and may be reappointed. The vice-chairperson shall assume the duties of the chairperson when the chairperson is absent or otherwise incapable of performing the duties of chairperson or, in the case of removal or a permanent incapacity, until the appointment of a successor chairperson by the mayor or other chief executive officer of the municipality.