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Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) testifies during today’s Senate voting session.

Bills Would Require Minority Recruitment, Cultural Diversity Training Programs

TRENTON — Two bills sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner to require New Jersey police departments to implement minority recruitment and selection programs as well as cultural diversity training received final approval in the Legislature on Monday. The bills are part of Senator Turner’s effort to strengthen community policing by promoting positive and collaborative relationships between officers and residents. They are now on the governor’s desk.

“Police officers have difficult and often very dangerous jobs and we are grateful for the work they do to protect us. In order for them to be most effective, we have to ensure we are doing everything possible to help foster positive working relationships between officers and the communities they serve,” said Senator Turner. “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. Officers’ jobs undoubtedly become easier when the force reflects the diversity of the public they have sworn to protect. In addition, providing cultural diversity training and outreach programs will help to facilitate better understanding between law enforcement and residents.”

The first bill (S-2623) would 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 would include specific goals for recruiting and hiring minorities and women, timelines for meeting those goals and methods for determining whether they have been met. County prosecutors would monitor the results within county and municipal agencies, and the Attorney General would monitor the results for state police and other state law enforcement agencies. The bill also would require public reporting on age, race and gender of officers within the departments, and information pertaining to applicants, hiring, and promotions.

The second bill (S-2888) would 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 would also 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.

S2623 was approved by both houses on Monday, with a vote of 23-14 in the Senate and 46-24-3 in the Assembly.  S2888 was approved by the Senate Monday by a vote of 23-16; the Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 46-23-3 in May.