Time may heal old wounds, but the New Jersey NAACP believes that federal monitoring of New Jersey state police should not have stopped after a ten year period that ended in 2009. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization plans to continue raising the issue amid concerns the Garden State’s police force still has a long way to go towards implementing true reforms.
“The monitoring of the state police … ended … too quick,” argued New Jersey NAACP President Rev. H. William Rutherford in a phone interview with Politic365. “I think we should have kept it a little while longer.”
More than a decade was not enough time to placate criticisms of the state’s Office of the Attorney General, who in 1999 entered into a consent decree with the federal government to perform constant monitoring of its state police force. The decree followed the grisly 1998 shootings of three Black and Latino men by New Jersey police officers after they were stopped on a state highway.
According to the New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General, that federal consent decree was dissolved in 2009. However, the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEPS), a division within the Office of the Attorney General, still monitors police.
Yet, recent press reports have drawn attention to a report released by OLEPS that refers to the New Jersey state police as a “model agency” – in light of criticisms made by the NAACP at the apparent dearth of Blacks involved in the police’s recruitment program. The NAACP reportedly has a consent decree with New Jersey still in place as a result of a separate suit against state police.
NAACP officials have stated that they are considering new legal action to ensure that the recruitment actions of the state police comport with provisions of the decree.
However, Rutherford said that the New Jersey NAACP has not taken any action as of yet. At this stage, the organization has only met with state officials and awaits another meeting.
“We are waiting on another meeting to get more involved in this recruitment matter. We have not [done] anything at this point,” explained Rutherford who said monitoring of police would be another issue for a later time. “But we are familiar with the problems with the New Jersey state police and recruiting and the number of African Americans and other minorities that are in the state troopers. As of right now, we have not had this second meeting which is going to come up real soon and then we’re going to come up with some strategies and pinpoint some ideas that we think will enhance the recruitment problems that the state police have.”
In a phone interview with Politic365.com, Paul Loriquet, Communications Director for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, acknowledged meeting with the NAACP and agreed that state police recruitment initiatives should encompass more African Americans.
“The Attorney General met with the NAACP, and we had a good meeting. We all agreed that going forward more has to be done to broaden the pool of African American applicants to join the state police,” said Loriquet.
Loriquet cited many factors that have led to relatively low numbers of Blacks participating in its first police recruitment academy in two years. Compared to Hispanics and women, fewer Blacks applied to the class. And the application process, which includes a physical test, written exam and background check, was “arduous” to the point that several African Americans were disqualified from the process.
Loriquet said that the NAACP is kept apprised of “all of the steps” in the recruitment process.
“When we shared where the disqualifiers were [the NAACP] didn’t contest that at all. They thought the process was fair,” Loriquet said, adding that the NAACP recommended more streamlined screening “up front” to save the time and efforts of those who were disqualified from the police class later in the application process.
Loriquet added that federal monitors agreed that state police had done a “good job” in ensuring that traffic stops were “legit.” He added that New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow is standing firm on the assertions she made in the state’s recent monitoring report.
“She still stands by it – that the state police is a model agency, they have made major reforms and are doing great work for the state of New Jersey,” he said.
The New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association and the ACLU of New Jersey were both contacted for comment. Neither organization returned calls by the filing of this story.