TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, and Chairman of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, issued the following statement today regarding the possibility that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office might move to dissolve a federal consent decree early next year which resulted in nearly a decade of federal oversight of the New Jersey State Police following revelations of the institutional practice of racial profiling among State Troopers:
“While I believe that the New Jersey State Police have come a long way in addressing and eliminating the inherent racism and prejudice enshrined in their racial profiling policies, I would ask Governor Corzine and Attorney General Milgram today to hold off on efforts to lift the consent decree until all questions are answered.
“Federal monitoring of the State Police began after a 1998 incident in which four unarmed black men, driving in a van, were stopped by two troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike. The incident escalated to violence when the troopers opened fire on the unarmed men, injuring three of the four.
“After this attack, my predecessor as Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, then-Assemblyman Joe Charles, convened the group to conduct exhaustive investigations into the issue of racial profiling, and successfully urged the federal Justice Department and the State of New Jersey to arrive at the current consent decree to provide federal oversight and monitoring of the State Police.
“Before the consent decree can be lifted, I would respectfully ask the Governor and the Attorney General to allow the Legislative Black Caucus an opportunity to get answers to some of the unanswered questions regarding current State Police practices. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, the Chairman of the Law and Public Safety sub-Committee of the Caucus, is planning to hold a hearing on the progress State Police have made to eliminate racial profiling in January.
“I look forward to a day when New Jersey lawmakers and the federal government can finally move beyond the specter of racial profiling, confident that any institutional lapses which led to such abhorrent practices have been addressed. I believe that the State Police have done an excellent job in making progress towards that end. However, until our questions are finally and decisively answered, I cannot, in good conscience, approve of the lifting of the federal consent decree.
“I look forward to working with the current State Police administrators, the Governor, the Attorney General, and my Legislative Black Caucus colleagues to put the racial profiling issue to rest. Before we claim victory in eliminating racial profiling, we must confirm – through an independent hearing of the Legislative Black Caucus – that the ghosts of institutional racism in the State Police are gone for good.”