With ongoing social unrest and the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic, police recruitment in the Garden State has been challenging.

“We’re seeing law enforcement agencies struggle to attract qualified men and women,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan said.

He said over the past several months, a number of recruitment activities were planned but put aside.

"Our trooper youth week events, our museum tours and internships — all of that had to be shelved and those are huge recruiting initiatives for us," Callahan said.

The colonel said he believes social justice efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement create an opportunity for people who want to make a difference to step up and be part of change. He said hopefully they will see joining the State Police as a “call to action,” a way to have a positive impact on society.

“I think it is a calling.” he said. “I think when you raise your right hand and take that oath to do this job to the best of your ability, that is one that you must take to do with compassion."

Callahan said after the Minneapolis death of Black man George Floyd under the knee of a police officer, he met with about a dozen Black troopers. They talked about how when they joined the State Police they wanted to make a difference.

“We’re always looking to get better and to be representative of what the demographics of the state of New Jersey look like,” Callahan said.

He said when he sees news footage of an act of police brutality — even in some other state —  that represents a small amount of law enforcement but it strongly impacts the perception of all law enforcement, and it might as well be happening in Trenton.

“That’s why we need to continue to have those public engagements, to have that community engagement, and to have real relationships rooted in trust," he said. "That’s what law enforcement should be about in New Jersey and across the entire nation.”

Virtual career events have been "somewhat effective," he said. "I think we’re looking forward to getting back to those in person interactions."

Callahan noted a new State Police class with about 160 troopers recently graduated. Another class begins training at the academy in November and an additional NJSP class is planned for next year.

“We’re always trying to move that needle and make sure that we’re doing our best to recruit people that want to serve the citizens of New Jersey,” Callahan said.

The immediate future looks promising for State Police recruitment but there is uncertainty moving forward, he said.

“Without doing those career nights and without having those events, it’s hard to gauge,” he said. “We don’t have the metrics to say, 'Oh last year we had 1,000 people by this point, and right now it would just be a wild guess at this juncture.”

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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