102 N.J.L.J. 451
November 16, 1978
Conflict of Interest
Prosecuting Police at Hearing
The inquirer asks whether there is a conflict of interest when a municipal prosecutor represents the police department at a departmental hearing of charges against a municipal police officer.
It is our opinion that there is a conflict of interest and that it is unethical for the municipal prosecutor to perform this function. We rely upon our Opinion 400, 102 N.J.L.J. 73 (1978), in reaching this conclusion. The municipal prosecutor frequently works with the police officers in the municipality. The manner in which facts are presented would be the decision of the prosecutor and frequently the manner of presentation can make a significant difference in the result. Thus the prosecutor is placed in a conflict of interest situation regarding the presenting of appropriate facts to support charges against a police officer in his municipality. Furthermore, it is conceivable that the police officers in the municipality would find it difficult at times to
work with a municipal prosecutor who could possibly be in the position at some future time of presenting charges against them.
Therefore, even though the public is not present during a department hearing, the same conflict of interest considered in our Opinion 400, supra, would be present.