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ACLU-NJ Sues State Police to Learn Promotion Policies

NJSP denied request for public records, stating basic policies are exempt from Open Public Records Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed suit against the New Jersey State Police for denying a request for public records detailing its promotion policies. This is the second time this summer that the ACLU-NJ has legally challenged the state for lack of transparency regarding public records.

The ACLU-NJ filed the lawsuit on behalf of Richard Rivera, who requested the documents on behalf of the Civil Rights Protection Project of the Latino Leadership Alliance.

“The state police is operating in virtual secrecy with no accountability to the public it serves,” said Rivera. “The public has an interest and a right to know what types of policies determine why some officers get promoted, including whether those policies favor one racial or ethnic group over another.”

On July 25, Rivera filed a request under the Open Public Records Act for all written policies, procedures, or orders that reflect the criteria, processes and methods of promotion in the NJSP. 

The state rejected his request on Aug. 2, stating it was too broad and that newly adopted regulations allow the state to withhold broad categories of public documents—even general policies—from the public.  

“This case is a prime example of how the attorney general’s recently adopted regulations violate OPRA, by exempting more information from public view than the law allows,” said attorney Janie Byalik of law firm Pashman Stein, which represents Rivera as a cooperating firm for the ACLU-NJ. “The state failed to provide any reason why it is in the public’s interest to keep this document confidential.”

Open government advocates, such as the ACLU-NJ, testified against the regulations for compromising transparency prior to the regulations’ passage in December 2011, arguing that many of the documents the state considers exempt are innocuous. 

“We raised these red flags with the state attorney gneral, who assured us that the regulations would not be used to keep innocuous records, such as general personnel policies, from the public view,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas. “Instead, the state did exactly what we feared in its response to Rivera’s request for records.”

In July, the ACLU-NJ challenged the regulations directly in the state appellate division, asking it to invalidate several provisions of the regulations that allow the State to exempt documents such as: standard operating procedure and training manuals, employment policies, duty assignments and overtime. Byalik and Michael Stein of Pashman Stein, a law firm based in Hackensack, represent the ACLU-NJ in that case as well.

bfree September 18, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Could the skeleton in the closet be that NJSP has been promoting non-whites ahead of whites when the whites scored higher on objective exams? Is the NJSP afraid of being exposed for reverse discrimination? Seems this reverse discrimination has been going on for some time all over. Remember the firefighters in Conn.?
VietNam Vet September 18, 2012 at 09:35 PM
The best thing the ACLU can do is get the hell out of NJ before someone runs them out with there anti-religion crap an offending people. The only ones getting offended is the real Americans in this country who actually believe in God, not the muslim bull they have been throwing around thanks to Odumbo/Osama the pig.
Warren September 19, 2012 at 12:57 AM
They will find reverse discrimination and drop it.
Dead Hoffa September 19, 2012 at 12:57 AM
KMN, is that any way to speak to someone who most likely had a hand in paying for your education??

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