Trenton – The Senate today approved and sent to the Governor three bills that would help bring greater diversity to the ranks of law enforcement in New Jersey. Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Ronald Rice, Senator Joe Cryan and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, the legislation would help break down the obstacles encountered by minorities in the hiring practices of police departments in the state.
The bills, S-2765, S-2766 and S-2767, would analyze the make-up of police forces and other law enforcement agencies, maintain a statewide database tracking membership, create a mentoring program to improve recruitment, and have the state Civil Service Commission undertake a series of initiatives to break down the institutional biases that block equal opportunities for minorities.
“We can bring more diversity to police forces and other law enforcement agencies by breaking down the barriers that make it much harder for minorities to join the ranks and to be treated fairly,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “They can help applicants overcome some of the institutional obstacles and biases that minorities face at the same time we help make police departments better reflect the communities they serve. This is a matter of equal opportunity and social justice.”
“New Jersey is the most diverse state in the nation and we should have a police force that reflects the residents and communities they patrol,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “As a former Newark police officer, I understand that diversity in our departments is crucial for building trust between the police and the people. This legislation will help us build that diversity in departments that so many municipalities need.”
“More diversity among law enforcement is a matter of equal opportunity and social justice, but it is also a means to more effective law enforcement,” said Senator Cryan, the former Union County Sheriff. “It will help improve the working relationship between police departments and the communities they serve by preventing crime, working effectively with victims and teaming up with residents to keep their communities safe.”
“If we are ever going to see our police forces truly reflect the diversity of our state, we must collect data and track our progress so we can be more targeted in our reforms,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We have made great strides over the last year, collecting this data will allow us to measure the progress we’ve made and fully grasp how far we still have to go.”
“I applaud the leadership and commitment of the senators in their efforts to improve the quality of policing in New Jersey,” said Jiles Ship, the President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives of New Jersey. “NOBLE NJ looks forward to working with the New Jersey Senate to put these important reform bills into effect that will enable us to build and sustain the trust between law enforcement and New Jerseyans.”
The three bills:
- The Diversity Analysis and Oversight bill (S-2767/Cryan, Rice, Sweeney, Ruiz)would have the Civil Service Commission develop and maintain a statewide database to collect and track the background information of the make-up of all law enforcement entities as well as candidates seeking positions.
- The Diversity and Inclusivity bill (S-2765/Sweeney, Rice, Ruiz)would have the Civil Service Commission conduct an analysis of law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to determine racial composition, salaries, geographic and socio-economic variances and the impact of residency requirements.
- The Mentoring bill (S-2766/Sweeney, Rice)would have the Civil Service Commission establish and maintain a program to assist minority law enforcement candidates through the application and selection process.
Previously approved by the Senate, today’s vote approved the bills with minor amendments made by the Assembly.