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

Part of Effort to Strengthen Community Policing

TRENTON — Senator Shirley Turner yesterday introduced legislation to require all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey – state and local – to establish minority recruitment programs. The bill aims to ensure that police departments more closely reflect the communities they serve, and is part of Senator Turner’s effort to promote positive and collaborative relationships between officers and residents.

“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.”

The bill would require departments to create minority recruitment and selection programs 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 racial and gender breakdowns within the departments, and information pertaining to applicants, hiring, and promotions.

The senator’s bill was introduced the same day the Obama Administration announced a strategy to strengthen community policing, including a proposal that will provide $75 million in federal matching funds over three years for police departments to purchase police body cameras. Senator Turner is also the sponsor of legislation (S2399) requiring all police officers in New Jersey be equipped with the small video devices.

“Just as action is being taken nationally to strengthen community policing, we must also do the work required here in New Jersey. That means improving diversity in our police forces and providing officers with the tools they need to have the trust and respect of the residents they protect,” said Senator Turner. “Additional funding will make purchasing the technology that much easier for departments that often deal with tough budget conditions and are continuously working to tighten their belts.”