Council members Denise Ridley and James Solomon will jointly introduce an ordinance to form a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) at the City Council meeting on February 24th.
The purpose of a CCRB is to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
Calls for a CCRB grew louder following a May, 2020 melee between police and civilians on Bostwick Avenue. In that case, the Hudson County prosecutor cleared the police of wrongdoing over the objections of neighborhood activists who claimed that the police had used excessive force.
If passed by the City Council, the CCRB would go into effect only after the New Jersey Legislature passes legislation drafted by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight.
Currently, New Jersey law does not permit a CCRB to issue subpoenas, which advocates consider crucial to the CCRB’s fact finding function. McKnight’s legislation would grant CCRBs subpoena power.
In August, the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down Newark’s CCRB. Newark has appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court. Last month, the city council voted to file a “friend of the court” brief supporting Newark’s position.
If enacted, Jersey City’s CCRB would be made up of 11 members; five from community organizations, the three at-large city council members and a representative from each ward.
The board would make recommendations to the Director of Public Safety who, in turn, would have to explain any discipline decision that differs from the CCRB’s recommendation.
New York City — which has had a CCRB since 1953 — has had mixed success. In November, The New York Times found that the police department “regularly ignored the board’s recommendations, overruled them or downgraded the punishments.”
Councilwoman Ridley is undeterred: “I believe that government works best when it is responsive to the requests of residents. The City is actively taking steps to better the relationship between our police department and the community. A CCRB is a step that gives both civilians and police an additional avenue to address complaints in a transparent way. Establishing the groundwork for a CCRB in Jersey City shows that we are committed to growing and improving systems in an effort to increase communication and trust.”
Councilman Solomon added, “On the heels of the appointment of Jersey City’s first civilian Police Director, a strong, independent CCRB would guarantee the accountability and transparency Jersey City residents rightfully ask from their police department. Instead of the police investigating the police, trusted community members will provide impartial review of allegations of impropriety and release the findings of their investigations, building trust between our officers and the community.”
“I commend Councilwoman Ridley and Councilman Solomon and all of the stakeholders in Jersey City who are pushing forward for a civilian review board in our community,” says Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson County). “I am pleased to advocate at the state level on behalf of them, and all of the other leaders of municipalities throughout the state who have remained committed to having a CCRB. We must pass legislation that ensures that these local governing bodies have a framework in place that will truly increase transparency and accountability between law enforcement agencies and the people they serve.”