Police officers in New Jersey occupy a position of power and privilege, and this often leads to an abuse of their authority. This is especially clear when it comes to criminal cops: cops who are officially charged with misconduct on the job.
Part of the problem is that police officers can often evade accountability. Even when criminally charged for their conduct on duty, cops often avoid the full consequences of their actions.
Plea deals obstructing justice?
Determining which outcome is just in instances of apparent police abuse can be a complicated matter from a legal standpoint. Yet one fact that is clear, according to ProPublica, is that more than two-thirds of officers who were charged with crimes including intimidation, lying, bribery, stealing and using cocaine, smuggling drugs, sexual misconduct and even serious acts of violence and attempted murder, avoided jail sentences.
Part of this phenomenon of an apparent lack of serious consequences for serious offenses is a sentencing law passed in 2007 where certain guidelines were created for some police officers charged with crimes like these to be granted exceptions in the form of plea bargains. Apparently, rather than being used only for a few exceptions, bargains like these have become commonplace.
Impediments to civilian oversight
Law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve communities, not terrorize them. To help ensure this is what happens, the city of Middlesex created an ordinance in 2016 instating a civilian complaint review board to provide oversight on police misconduct. Yet NJ Spotlight News reports that in August of 2020, the state’s supreme court struck down key parts of this ordinance.
It appears this decision was spurred by a lawsuit filed by the Middlesex police union. Moves like this suggest that police agencies seek to avoid any sense of responsibility to the public for their actions.