(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Charles Mainor and Gordon Johnson aimed at making law enforcement agencies in New Jersey more representative of the communities they serve received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill (A-4849) would require each state, county and local law enforcement agency in New Jersey to establish a minority recruitment and selection program. The programs would ensure that the agencies reflect the diversity of the populations they serve.
“When the makeup of the law enforcement population mirrors that of the general population in a community, people are more likely to have a sense that they can relate to and trust the police,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Diversity is important in all workplace environments, but it’s particularly significant when it comes to a profession that requires regular interaction with the community.”
As per the legislation, the programs would: set goals for recruiting and hiring minorities and women within a specified time frame, describe methods for evaluating whether these goals have been met and establish corrective action to be taken if goals are unmet.
“Hostility between the public and the police in certain communities is a genuine public safety concern,” said Mainor (D-Hudson), a former Jersey City Police Department detective. “Making a concerted effort to recruit more minorities will help foster environments in which police approach community members with more cultural sensitivity and people feel comfortable going to the police when they need help.”
“Effective policing is contingent upon the public’s trust in the law enforcement officers who protect them, and a big part of that lies in the general population feeling understood by the police,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who formerly served as Bergen County sheriff. “Increasing minority and female representation in law enforcement agencies can help achieve that end. Furthermore, the reporting requirements included in this bill will increase transparency in hiring practices among departments.”
Under the bill, county prosecutors would monitor programs established by county and municipal agencies, and the state attorney general would monitor programs established by the state police and other state law enforcement agencies.
The attorney general would report annually to the governor and the legislature regarding the programs and also publish a summary of the report online.
The bill also would set annual reporting requirements concerning the overall diversity of law enforcement agencies. Each state, county and municipal agency would be required to report on the age, gender, race and ethnicity of: officers currently appointed to the law enforcement agency, officers promoted within the agency in the previous year, applicants appointed to the agency in the previous year and all applicants for a position with the agency in the previous year. Agencies also would be required to report the reasons for denying applicants an appointment to the agency.
The bill was approved 46-24-3 by the Assembly, and 22-14 by the Senate last week.