LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

ACLU Sues State Police Over Transparency of Promotion System

Unlike 48 other states, New Jersey has a rather unique — and some say outdated — way of promoting its state troopers.

Reportedly, supervisors at various levels of the State Police rank troopers on a sliding scale and then decide who among the force of 2,700 makes it to middle management.

It’s a subjective review process that critics say lacks transparency and any objective means testing for who is actually worthy of promotion and it could lead to discrimination lawsuits.

The governor told NJ Today Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron that he intends to look into the issue before he voices concern.

“I read the story. I learned some things that I didn’t know about the policies so I’ll get in touch with the attorney general and get a full briefing from him on it to make sure that I completely understand it, so I can’t say I’m concerned about it yet Michael,” Gov. Chris Christie said. “But there were certain things that were in that story yesterday that I wasn’t completely aware of so I’m going to talk to Attorney General [Jeff] Chiesa and get his view on things and I’ll talk to Superintendent [Rick] Fuentes to get his view on things.”

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Only Rhode Island, a state a fraction of New Jersey’s size, employs a similar system.

The other states use a variety of oral and written tests and interviews to promote state police.

The state police are the subject of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claims there is a lack of transparency into how the promotion system works and that the state refuses to turn over promotion records.

“The ACLU is not making any underlying arguments on whether promotions themselves are valid or invalid or whether they affect a certain group of people,” said Janie Byalik of the ACLU of New Jersey. “We’re simply trying to gain access to the policies and as of right now we haven’t been able to because they’re being withheld under this regulation.”

According to The Star-Ledger, troopers are evaluated on a sliding scale, which takes into account years of experience, performance evaluations and education. But there are no objective tests.

Late in the day, the state attorney general’s office released a statement. “The nationally-respected Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) recently conducted a thorough evaluation of the New Jersey State Police and concluded that it was engaged in ‘best practices’ across the board, including those related to the handling of internal complaints, supervision and promotion of staff,” the statement reads.

The union representing the state troopers says that at this time, they wish not to comment and some of the lawmakers who sit on the Assembly’s public safety committee say they needed more time to look at the issue.

Andrew Schmertz reports from Trenton.