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In re Presentment Returned to Superior Court of New Jersey

Decided: April 5, 1957.

IN THE MATTER OF THE PRESENTMENT RETURNED TO THE SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY, LAW DIVISION, UNION COUNTY, BY THE UNION COUNTY GRAND JURY, ON MARCH 28, 1957


Order directing filing of presentment.

Hughes, J.s.c.

Hughes

Presentment No. 2 returned by the January session, 1954 term, grand jury in Union County, and directed to be filed and publicized by the order of this court, dealt importantly with law enforcement in the City of Elizabeth. It recited that grand jury's finding that:

"* * * the structure, organization and supervision of the Police Department of the City of Elizabeth was obsolete and incompatible with the efficient administration of justice * * *."

That presentment recognized and condemned the existence, as a pattern of conduct, of interference by the board of

police commissioners with the internal administration of the police department, including transfers, changes in assignment, promotions and demotions without prior consultation with any of the superior officers of the police force. It determined that such interference and mismanagement had resulted in a collapse of morale and weakening of that spirit of pride, aggressiveness and wholehearted devotion to duty which is the foundation of a fine police department.

That presentment recommended new legislation more clearly defining the respective jurisdictional functions of civilian administrators such as the police commissioners, on the one hand, and the chief of police and other officers in the chain of command, on the other. Pending the enactment of such legislation, that grand jury urged that under the executive leadership of the mayor there should be an interpretation of existing law that would confine the responsibility and authority of the police commissioners to policy and administrative matters, leaving operational management to the chief of police and his subordinate officers, who would thereby be restored to their rightful position of authority and responsibility.

The final recommendation of that grand jury's presentment was this:

"9. That the Common Council of the City of Elizabeth forthwith appropriate funds for the services of a competent expert to make a survey of the requirements of the Elizabeth Police Department as to personnel and equipment, allocation of personnel, revision of the rules and regulations, and such other findings as might be pertinent."

In this setting and after the lapse of almost two years during which no such departmental survey has been had, the extended grand jury of the September stated session, 1956 term, made an intensive investigation into the question of juvenile delinquency and violence and the need for improved laws, court structures and supportive services to deal therewith. In the course of such general investigation

and its relevant evaluation of juvenile aid bureaus within the police departments of this county, the attention of that body was attracted to the presentment returned by its predecessor grand jury. It is evident from the presentment now offered the court by the current grand jury that it has redetermined that specified shortcomings in the police department continue to exist, that the need for a comprehensive survey of its condition is no less emergent now than it was in 1955, and that existing weaknesses in departmental morale and discipline should be eliminated. It determines that the enforcement of law and suppression of juvenile delinquency, twin and indispensable objectives ...


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