Good morning, Chairwoman Sumter, Vice Chair Verrelli, and distinguished members of the committee. My name is Marleina Ubel, and I am a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a nonpartisan think tank focused on advancing economic, social, and racial justice for New Jersey residents.
I am here to express NJPP’s strong support for A1515, which allows municipalities to establish Civilian Complaint Review Boards (CCRBs). We believe that the establishment of these boards is crucial for fostering transparency, fairness, and safety in policing practices, ultimately promoting positive relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
And while I appreciate the positive strides this bill takes in enhancing police accountability and am thrilled to see the inclusion of subpoena power and that disciplinary recommendations carry weight, I would like to urge you to consider the following three points:
Statewide Application: A1515 should be enacted as a statewide bill to ensure that all communities across the state benefit from the establishment of CCRBs.
Concurrent Investigatory Power: The 120 day delay included in the bill undermines the goals of this legislation, namely trust, transparency, and accountability. Concurrent investigatory power is necessary to empower CCRBs to initiate and conduct investigations simultaneously with internal affairs units, preventing delays and ensuring a prompt and impartial inquiry into alleged misconduct. Moreover, members of the public are less likely to report complaints to the board if they do not trust that the board has the power to fully investigate their complaint.
And finally, CCRBs should be reflective of the communities they serve. A community-driven approach ensures diverse perspectives, enhances trust, and promotes transparency. The inclusion of community members on CCRBs is fundamental to building bridges between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
I also just want to address the concerns around police recruitment. End of year state trooper counts are expected to be higher than they have been in almost a decade, and New Jersey has almost double the national average of police officers to population. The national average is about two police officers for every thousand people, and in New Jersey we have roughly four police officers for every thousand people.
In conclusion, I strongly urge you to support A1515 and to consider these recommendations. By enacting this legislation with the aforementioned provisions, we can build a more accountable, transparent, and community-oriented law enforcement system in our state. And most importantly, a safer one.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.