Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Aug. 15 issued the nation’s first statewide directive to law enforcement implementing an “extreme risk” gun safety law.
The directive, which applies to all 36,000 law enforcement officers in New Jersey, will make it easier for police to keep firearms away from individuals who present a significant danger to themselves or others.
Attorney General Directive 2019-2 – known as the “Extreme Risk Directive”– guides and directs the state’s law enforcement agencies on the proper implementation of the Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) Act of 2018, which takes effect on Sept. 1.
According to Grewal’s office, the new law creates a process through which a family or household member, or a law enforcement officer, may apply for an order against a person who presents a significant danger of bodily injury to himself or others by possessing or purchasing a firearm. Issuance of such an order prohibits that individual from possessing or purchasing a firearm or ammunition and from holding any firearms identification cards or permits.
“New Jersey is leading the way in taking commonsense action to protect our residents and law enforcement officers from the daily scourge of gun violence,” Grewal said in a statement. “But our laws are only as powerful as our willingness to use them. That’s why I am issuing the first-ever statewide directive to help our law enforcement officers understand their authority and their obligation to protect families from gun violence in moments of crisis. This Directive gives every law enforcement officer in this state the tools and knowledge they need to intervene before it’s too late,” Grewal said.
“Any family that has experienced the type of crisis this directive addresses will understand immediately how these protective orders can be life savers, as will any police officer who has responded to emergency calls involving persons who pose a danger to themselves or others because they are mentally or emotionally unstable,” said Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice.
“We are training prosecutors and officers throughout New Jersey this month to ensure that they are prepared to make effective use of these orders and inform the public about them,” Allende said.
“In the past, many in law enforcement have experienced the frustration caused by not having procedures in place that allow an officer to initiate a streamlined process for removing a firearm from an individual who poses a threat to themselves or the public,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “This directive is a much needed and welcomed tool now available to both the police and the public, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”
The Extreme Risk Directive instructs law enforcement officers and prosecutors on whether and when to file for an ERPO, how to inform and assist the public on ERPO petitions, and the standards and processes for doing so.
In particular, the directive instructs that law enforcement officers have a duty to educate people on the availability of ERPO petitions, and specifically to inform family and household members at risk of firearm violence of the law and its procedures. The directive also confirms that law enforcement officers must seek an ERPO from a court whenever they have probable cause to believe that a person poses an immediate and present danger of causing bodily injury to themselves or others by having custody or control of, owning, possessing, purchasing or receiving a firearm.
In addition, the Extreme Risk Directive confirms that law enforcement officers have a variety of other tools to intervene in moments of crisis. These can include the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act, a mental-evaluation referral, a civil commitment, or criminal complaints, investigations or charges.
Understanding the importance of training law enforcement officers to enforce the new ERPO Act, the Attorney General’s Office – in partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts – is conducting 16 training sessions for prosecutors and law enforcement officers on the Act, the directive, and the process to file a petition in every region of the State. Those sessions began on August 6th and will continue through the 26th.