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In Increasingly Diverse State, NJ’s Police Forces Are Mostly White and Male

While some see hiring bias, other observers say it’s not necessarily bigotry behind racial make-up of departments

Plainsboro Police Chief Guy Armour
Credit: Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC
Plainsboro Police Chief Guy Armour says the racial make-up of police departments is a complex issue. His 36-member department has just three non-white officers. But Armour himself is African-American.

It’s not just Ferguson, Missouri.

Visitors to the police headquarters in Nutley, NJ, are greeted by a bulletin board displaying photos of each member of the 65-person force. Almost all of the faces are white and male. In North Bergen, where whites make up about 20 percent of the population, the police force is 80 percent white.

But the situation in New Jersey, where police forces are mostly white throughout the state, might not be as clear-cut as it appears at first glance.

In Plainsboro, a suburban community with a significant minority population, two police officer jobs were advertised recently. The department there has 36 members – one is black, two are Hispanic, and the rest are white. A total of 422 people applied for the two jobs. Applicants included 18 Asian men, 19 people identified as Hispanic, 41 African-Americans, 10 people identified as multiracial – and more than 300 white men. After a written exam and fitness test, a background check and a couple rounds of interviews, the police chief, the deputy mayor and the town’s business administrator made the hires: two white men.

Did racial bias influence the hiring? One man who rejects that notion is Plainsboro’s police chief, Guy Armour – an African-American.

Read and listen to the full report by Sarah Gonzalez of WNYC/NJPR, a partner of NJ Spotlight.

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