New Jersey State Police took some hard shots amid the racial profiling controversy of years ago. So they’ve every right to crow over a report released today that says complaints about trooper conduct last year dropped below 1,000 for the first time since 2003.
The news comes on the heels of the formal end to federal monitoring earlier this week. For all the hits the department took when some of its members did something wrong — making the monitoring necessary in the first place — it should now get credit for not only tossing the bad apples but making sure fewer don’t make their way onto the force.
Of the total complaints for 2008, many were brought be the department itself. Barely three dozen have resulted in actual charges.
The most serious offenses included drug possession, driving while drunk and domestic violence, according to the annual report, issued by the State Police’s Office of Professional Standards.
Col. Rick Fuentes, the State Police superintendent, has made training and internal reviews hallmarks of his tenure in charge, and the results have been undeniable.
Fuentes said the agency has tightened its self-inspection process, improved supervision and used technology to help make his one of the most elite forces in the nation. Video cameras are used in all patrol vehicles and commanders are able to track personnel information via computer.
The result has been an agency that is “more professional, more accessible and more transparent,” Fuentes said.
Nearly 1,000 complaints may sound like a lot to some people. But consider this:
The NJSP has more than 3,000 troopers, most of whom patrol countless miles of roadway and handle various venues — i.e., Giants Stadium — and events.
They make thousands upon thousands of motor vehicle stops each year and conduct major investigations. In some towns, they are the sole patrol unit. All told, this means they have interactions with citizens each year that easily top six figures.
For that large an agency — one that strictly polices itself — to have that low a number is impressive. There are some CITIES around here that field more complaints than that.
What’s truly telling, though, is when you find out how many people behind those 967 complaints had just either received a summons they thought they didn’t deserve or were arrested for something they said they didn’t do. It’s not a myth to say defense lawyers have advised clients to file a formal complaint against an arresting officer. Helps them in a plea bargain.
(PHOTO: JERRY DeMARCO for CLIFFVIEWPILOT LLC. NO USE WITHOUT PERMISSION.)
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.