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TRENTON —Two bills sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer) to require New Jersey police departments to implement minority recruitment and selection programs as well as cultural diversity training cleared the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today.

The bills are part of Senator Turner’s effort to strengthen community policing by promoting positive and collaborative relationships between law enforcement and the public.

“Having a diverse police force helps provide officers with greater sensitivity to people from all backgrounds and allows residents to better identify with the officers patrolling their neighborhoods,” said Senator Turner.  “By providing cultural diversity training and outreach programs, we will help to facilitate better understanding between police and the communities they serve. Police officers have difficult and often very dangerous jobs and we are grateful for the work they do to protect us. This is legislation that will help to establish an environment that allows officers to be most effective.”

The first bill (S-655) will require each law enforcement agency in New Jersey – state and local – to establish a minority recruitment and selection program in accordance with guidelines issued by the Attorney General.  The programs will include specific goals, not quotas, for recruiting and hiring minorities and women, timelines for meeting those goals and methods for determining whether they have been met. County prosecutors will monitor the results within county and municipal agencies, and the Attorney General will monitor the results for state police and other state law enforcement agencies. The law also will require public reporting on age, race and gender of officers within the departments, and information pertaining to applicants, hiring, and promotions.

“The bill does not lower standards, but instead would encourage efforts to attract well qualified minority and female candidates,” said Senator Turner.  “There are qualified candidates in our urban cities who have never been advised about a career in law enforcement and it is not a path that they have envisioned for themselves without having a family member’s footsteps to follow in.  As more police departments increase the number of minorities in their ranks, it will become easier to attract a more diverse force.”

The second bill (S-1142) will require county and municipal police departments to establish, and officers to participate in, a cultural diversity training course that includes instruction and exercises designed to promote positive interaction with the racial, ethnic, and religious communities within each department’s respective jurisdiction. The training will be required to include instruction and exercises designed to promote positive interaction with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals residing within each department’s jurisdiction. Each department would also be required to adopt a cultural diversity action plan, to include strategies for outreach programs that address the social and criminal concerns of the community as well as efforts taken on behalf of the department in forming partnerships with various cultural religious and civic organizations, including those formed on the basis of preventing discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  As amended, the bill will also require institutions of higher education which appoint campus police officers to develop and adopt a campus cultural diversity training course and action plan for the campus police department.

S-655 cleared the committee 3-2 and will head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

S-1142 cleared by a vote 3-2 and heads to the full Senate for further consideration.