NJ spent $478K to probe State Police discrimination but won’t share report

by Sophie Nieto-Munoz, New Jersey Monitor

The state Attorney General’s Office has spent nearly $500,000 on a three-year investigation into allegations of racial discrimination within the state’s largest police agency, according to public records obtained by the New Jersey Monitor.

It’s not clear yet what prompted the probe, though the New Jersey State Police has been targeted in numerous lawsuits by troopers who allege racial discrimination.

Last month, activists and some lawyers representing the troopers demanded the Attorney General’s Office release the findings of the investigation.

Gregg Zeff, a lawyer representing troopers who have sued the agency, scoffed at the notion that the probe should take this long to complete.

“It seems pretty crazy to me that an analysis takes three years, and then you still don’t have a result,” Zeff said in an interview.

Hackensack-based law firm Kaufman, Dolowich & Voluck, which is handling the investigation, first billed the state in September 2020, and bills continued monthly through this February, according to the records, obtained through a public records request.

The invoices range from as little as $220 to a high of $170,070. The 32 invoices total $478,128.70. The last invoice was dated June 22 (the records request was sent July 14).

A report detailing the law firm’s findings has yet to be released.

Zeff, a Mount Laurel-based lawyer, said that his oldest case involving alleged racial discrimination at the State Police dates to 2016.

He called it “chilling” for the government to spend nearly half a million investigating complaints and show no results after three years.

He criticized the state for spending “an extreme amount of government money and taking an extraordinary amount of time.”

He noted that the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol has led to hundreds of investigations during a shorter period of time.

“I don’t know how many thousands of pages of reports they have into the insurrection, and we can’t complete an investigation into discriminatory practices into the State Police in that same time frame? What does that tell us about how serious New Jersey is about stopping these practices?” he said.

These types of investigations typically take months, he added. The Attorney General’s Office confirmed the investigation is ongoing.

Once the review is complete, the attorney general will make the findings public, said Michael Symons, spokesman for the office.

In July, activists joined the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP to call on Attorney General Matt Platkin to release the report on the investigation.

Dozens of local advocates, including Zeff, also signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking federal officials to investigate the State Police.

The letter sent to Justice Department officials claims the State Police disproportionately favors white heterosexual males in hiring practices.

Roughly 84% of the state’s 3,181 troopers are white males, the letter states.

The New Jersey State Police was under federal oversight for 10 years, beginning in 1999, after troopers were accused of racially profiling motorists.

Officials overhauled the agency, and a state office was created to ensure “best practices.” Zeff said that while he appreciates a thorough investigation, it’s time to release the results.

“I’d suspect for half a million, they did a tremendous amount of work, and it’d be great to see it,” he said.

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