The office of acting New Jersey Attorney General John Jay Hoffman released a new report last month revealing that too many highway patrol officers in the Garden State break the department’s own rules, using excessive force during routine traffic stops, using motorists’ race as a determinant when bringing out police dogs and improperly searching vehicles.
The report, which covered the first six months of 2012, notes that the State police break rules at a “troubling” rate and doesn’t do enough self-monitoring to catch their repeated occurrence or to correct the officers responsible. Out of 155 cases the police self-reviewed during early 2012, they failed to identify such mistakes nearly one-third of the time.
An independent police expert who helped the Federal government monitor the New Jersey State Police during the execution of a recently ended consent decree said the new report is “disturbing.”
“By the time you reach 30 percent, that’s getting pretty serious,” Samuel Walker told The Star-Ledger.
The most recent in the Federally mandated series of periodic reports was released in July by the New Jersey Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEP). OLEP is an internal division that was set up to monitor the State following the department’s 2009 exit from the Federal consent order, which had set Federal watchdogs to ensure the department had curbed its practice of racially profiling black on the New Jersey Turnpike by singling them out for “routine” traffic stops.
In addition to finding the State Police had used excessive force in a number of stops — an allegation the police themselves deny — the report also found that Troopers seemed to be deploying police dogs on a disproportionate number of black motorists.
“White drivers made up 48 percent of all stops, yet only 30 percent of motor vehicle stops with canine deployments,” according to the report. “Black drivers made up 39 percent of all stops and 61 percent of canine deployments.”
The findings also indicate troopers did not advise all suspects of their Miranda rights and often failed to activate their patrol cars’ dashboard cameras and microphones during traffic stops. The Feds now require dashboard recording of New Jersey State Police as a means of self-monitoring, a required condition of the lifting of the consent decree.