By Desirée Taylor
Major Gerald Lewis was the face of diversity for New Jersey’s State Police. The agency’s highest-ranking African-American led the effort to recruit more minorities and he helped to ease community tensions when troopers came under fire for racial profiling. So when Lewis filed a lawsuit accusing State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes of racial discrimination, black leaders took notice.
“If those allegations come to be true, I think Attorney General Hoffman is really going to have to take a long look at exactly where we are and how he plans to address this issue. And ultimately correct it,” said Richard Smith
Lewis’ lawsuit claims that Fuentes targeted him. Even had troopers ask about his career ambitions and fill out questionnaires about Lewis’ personality.
Bishop Reginald Jackson who previously lead the Black Ministers Council, says the timing is ironic because Lewis’ star was rising at the state police.
“What’s frustrating is Major Lewis might have been one of those under consideration to be next superintendent if Fuentes steps down and so it makes you wonder if this was an attempt to block him from ascending to that position,” Jackson said.
The state attorney general’s office is looking into the matter.
Acting AG John Hoffman released a statement saying, “We take allegations of this nature seriously and will investigate the allegations fully. Let there be no misunderstanding, however, regarding our commitment to diversity in the State Police. That commitment resulted in the two most diverse classes in State Police history, and we anticipate maintaining that positive trend in the future.”
However, Tom Reynolds President of the Montclair NAACP questioned whether New Jersey’s top cop could fairly investigate the State Police, which often works closely with the attorney general’s office. Is it a case of an agency basically investigating itself?
We over run the state police and we are looking into the state police. I think there might be consideration for conflict,” says Reynolds.
Today, Col. Fuentes declined to speak with NJTV.
Lewis retired from the State Police and moved out of state and could not be reached for comment.
Black leaders generally support Fuentes but they make it clear, if he or others are found to be at fault, they should be held accountable.