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Are NJ police departments too ‘white?’

Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

It’s odd that this question should come up a day after I blogged about State Senator Shirley Turner’s complaint that the latest State Patrol graduating class was less diverse than some of the previous ones – saying that what happened in Fergerson, Mo. should have been a wake-up call.

It isn’t for lack of trying on the part of the state to seek out qualified minority candidates.

In fact, in an article in the Trentonian, she was taken to task by a number of community groups that had worked with State Patrol officials to bolster minority recruitment – especially by one Bishop Jethro C. James, president of the Newark/North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen, who said:

“The reality is you can’t allow your children to be slack and want this career,” he said. “If you want this career, you got to be squeaky clean.”
“Don’t come crying because they ran you too hard or this was too hard,” he said. “Because we’re not asking them to lower the standards. That’s not happening.”

In fact, the ethnic makeup of a number of police departments around the country has been looked at by the NY Times drawing the conclusion that the lack of diversity leads to a credibility problem.

Do you find the predominance of white police officers in New Jersey to be a problem?

Just to give you a breakdown of some of the towns in New Jersey with mainly white cops patrolling towns with heavy minority populations:

Plainsboro, for example, has a force that is 56 percent more white than its residents. The department is 94 percent white even though the township is 46 percent Asian.

Edison’s force is 96 percent white, while the township is 43 percent Asian.

Some city police departments in Central Jersey are far more diverse than the average, but still fall short of mirroring their communities.

Perth Amboy, a city that is more than 78 percent Hispanic, has a police force that is 56 percent white and just 37 percent Hispanic.

And the list goes on.

So do you buy into the analysis that our various police forces are too “white” leading to a credibility problem – or that there may either be a lack of interest or other qualification deficiencies on the part of minorities in joining the ranks of the police?

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