Monday, November 9, 2009

Appellate Division: OPRA requires disclosure of "Use of Force" reports

In a November 9, 2009 published opinion, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division upheld a lower court's ruling that police "use of force" reports, with the names of suspects who were not arrested or charged redacted, are public records subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  The case is Martin O'Shea v. Township of West Milford, Docket No. A-1185-08, and the decision is available on-line here.

The reports at issue are those that the New Jersey Attorney General requires police officers to complete whenever force is used against a citizen.  Examples of force include unholstering a firearm, striking with a police baton or applying a chemical spray.  The Attorney General's rule and regulations regarding use of force are on-line here.

Examples of actual Use of Force Reports, from the Cranbury Township (Middlesex County) Police Department are on-line here.

Mr. O'Shea was represented by Richard Gutman of Montclair.  The American Civil Liberties Union and North Jersey Media Group were amici curiae and were represented by Bobby Conner, Edward L. Barocas, Jeanne LoCicero and Jennifer A. Borg.

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