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NJ Civil Rights and NJ Criminal Defense: New Use of Force Investigation Guidelines

Posted by Leslie Posnock on September 16, 2015  |   No Comments »

Recently, the New Jersey Attorney General issued “Supplemental Law Enforcement Directive Regarding Uniform Statewide Procedures and Best Practices for Conducting Police-Use-of-Force Investigations” This is an extensive new guideline that may play an important role in the preparation and planning for the filing of federal civil rights cases based on the use of police force. Our firm uses these Guidelines in support of our clients who have civil rights cases, as well as in the defense of our criminal clients.

One of the most significant changes made in the new Use of Force Investigation Guidelines is the “Comprehensive Conflicts Inquiry to Inform Suppression/Recusal Decisions.” This guideline specifically addresses conflicts of interest between the agency or individual allegedly using force and the agencies or individuals conducting the investigation. The new Guideline provides as follows:

“When the investigation is conducted by the County Prosecutor, the Prosecutor shall as
expeditiously as feasible determine whether any actual or potential conflict of interest exists that might undermine public confidence in the impartiality and independence of the investigation. As part of this comprehensive conflicts inquiry, the Prosecutor shall determine whether any member of the leadership team of the office (EMS, the County Prosecutor, First Assistant Prosecutor, Chief of Detectives, etc.), has had any personal or professional interaction with or relationship to the principals of the investigation that might reasonably create an actual or potential conflict of interest for the member or office. The Prosecutor likewise shall determine whether any person assigned to
participate in or supervise the use-of-force investigation has had any such personal or professional interactions with or relationship to the principals(s) of the investigation. The Prosecutor also shall determine whether the principals of the investigation is/are expected to testify on behalf of the State in pending matters being prosecuted by the Prosecutor’s Office, and whether the principals of the investigation has/have, within the preceding 5 years, been assigned to a task force operating under the direct supervision of the Prosecutor’s Office.”

“The County Prosecutor within 3 days of initiating the investigation shall report the results of the comprehensive conflicts inquiry to the Director. The County Prosecutor shall have an ongoing responsibility to update the comprehensive conflicts inquiry report based on new information or the involvement of additional persons in the investigation. The initial report and any updates to that report shall be made in a manner and on a form as shall be prescribed by the Director. The Director
shall develop and make available forms to facilitate the comprehensive conflicts inquiry reporting process.”

“Based on the information in the comprehensive conflicts inquiry report, and any such
additional information as the Director may require the Prosecutor to provide, the Director shall determine whether the interests of justice would best be served by superseding the investigation, assigning the investigation to another County Prosecutor’s Office, ordering the recusal of any person or persons from the investigation, or taking such other actions as may be needed to ensure the
impartiality and independence of the investigation. When the investigation is conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice, the Deputy Director responsible for overseeing the Attorney General Shooting Response Team, or other Assistant Attorney General designated by the Director, shall undertake the comprehensive conflicts inquiry,
and shall report thereon to the Director. The Director shall determine whether any actions are needed to ensure the impartiality and independence of the investigation.”

For individuals with civil rights claims or who are facing federal criminal prosecution or sentencing in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, or state criminal prosecution or sentencing in the criminal courts of New Jersey, it is critical to have an experienced New Jersey civil rights attorney and federal and state New Jersey criminal defense attorney represent you. The experienced civil rights attorneys and criminal defense lawyers of Schwartz & Posnock appear in all Federal Courts of New Jersey, as well as the State and Municipal criminal courts in New Jersey, and have convenient locations in Monmouth County (Eatontown), Essex County (Livingston), Union County (Linden), and Middlesex County (East Brunswick). Call us at 732-544-1460 or email us at info@schwartzposnock.com to schedule an appointment. You may visit our website at www.schwartzposnock.com.

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