Mayor candidate scored two major victories for police transparency, setting precedent bolstering NJ’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Mayor candidate Charlie Kratovil won two major victories for police transparency in court cases filed prior to declaring his candidacy.
It’s the latest in a series of transparency wins for Kratovil, who been the editor of a community newspaper for over a decade and repeatedly used the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to investigate city government and its response to violent crime.
The City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Police Department must produce information related to 20 aggravated assaults, including those involving shootings, according to a ruling by a panel of Appellate Court Judges.
The panel reversed in part a trial court ruling in Kratovil’s 2021 suit that said the City of New Brunswick need not provide information about the 20 assaults, including the types of weapons involved. The City previously said it would voluntarily disclose the information, but then failed to do so, according to the appellate court ruling states.
“It shouldn’t take over a year and an Appellate Court case to get this basic information, but I won’t stop fighting until our police department is transparent, accountable, and proactive in preventing violent crimes, and protecting the people of New Brunswick,” said Kratovil.
In addition to requiring the City produce information relating to the weapons used in the assaults, the appellate court’s decision acknowledged that city officials violated OPRA by failing to make a public statement about why it chose to withhold the records after the initial request. According to the ruling, the City sought to “justify its inadequate responses by claiming it was relying on past practices.”
“Improper past practices do not justify continuing practices that fail to comply with OPRA’s express directions,” wrote the Court.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the appeal and we hope that, going forward, more information regarding reported crimes in New Brunswick is produced in a timely manner, as required by OPRA,” said attorney Walter Luers, who represents Kratovil in the case.
Kratovil has made police transparency a major focus of his campaign, both in New Brunswick and around the state.
Two days after the Appellate Court ruling, a Middlesex County Superior Court Judge decided in Kratovil’s favor in a separate OPRA complaint filed against the Borough of Carteret, ordering the Borough to be more transparent about a December 2021 motor vehicle crash involving Carteret Mayor Daniel J. Reiman.
In that July 15 decision, the court ordered the Borough to remove redactions from the audio and video of bodyworn camera recordings and patrol car dash camera footage, and to release unredacted 911 call recordings, dispatch recordings and radio recordings.
The decision in Kratovil v. City of New Brunswick is available here:
The decision in Kratovil v. Borough of Carteret is available here: