(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan Jr., Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to establish mandatory sexual assault training requirements for law enforcement officers was approved last week by the General Assembly.
The bill (A-2605) would require the Division of Criminal Justice to develop a training course and curriculum for law enforcement officers on handling, investigation and response procedures for reports of sexual assault. The division would distribute the course and curriculum, to be reviewed at least every two years, to all New Jersey local police agencies.
“Law enforcement officers must focus on protecting sexual assault victims and bringing perpetrators to justice,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “By ensuring that all officers receive proper training, this legislation will help create a New Jersey where victims know they will be supported and offenders know they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Under the bill, the attorney general would be responsible for ensuring that all law enforcement officers complete initial training within 90 days of appointment or transfer to another agency. Permanently appointed officers would be required to attend a four-hour in-service program every other year.
“We cannot tolerate a culture in which victims of sexual assault lack confidence in the men and women responsible for responding to them,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Requiring officers to be trained to handle sexual assault appropriately will encourage reporting and reinforce our state’s commitment to justice for every resident.”
“There is no excuse for law enforcement officers putting victims of sexual violence through further suffering with insensitive questioning or treatment that causes a sense of shame. That kind of behavior discourages many victims from coming forward and allows attackers to commit the same offense repeatedly without consequence,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Sexual assault is a crime, and this bill will ensure that law enforcement officers – the men and women whose job it is to protect and serve New Jersey residents – are equipped to perform their duties.”
“Many victims of sexual assault fail to report their abuse out of embarrassment and fear,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is important not only for the well-being of the victim but the integrity of the investigation that law enforcement officers know how to handle these cases. Having officers who are properly trained to assist these victims can ensure that victims get the help they need, and officers are able to get the information needed to bring their perpetrators to justice.”
The bill was approved 70-0-1 by the Assembly on Nov. 13 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.