Senate committee advances police reform bills

The New Jersey Senate’s Law and Public Safety Committee advanced a number of police reform bills, including one to increase recruitment of minority men and women. But Democrats differed on how soon or how best to do that.

Sen. Ron Rice, one of the longest-serving current members of the Legislature, said do it now.

“In this house, we tend to bring stuff up with the intention of killing it at the same time. So move this forward, but what I’m saying, senator, I would hope that you’ll and Sen. Cryan will send it right away and it will start this bill so we can get it back to the Assembly side,” Rice said.

Sen. Joseph Cryan, the former sheriff of Union County, urged colleagues to amend the bill to set specific instead of lofty goals.

“My concern is that the attorney general is going to develop guidelines, as I understand in the bill as amended. Those concerns is that attorney generals come and go, and if there’s no definitive guideline you can take any goal, for example 10% growth in minority, and make it five of the next are eliminated at all. I think the bill should have a definitive goal,” Cryan said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Shirley Turner cited stats that she says shows some police forces have become less diverse.

“Right now we have roughly 3,000 state troopers, approximately. And of those 3,000 state troopers only 100 of them are women. And of the 100 women, only nine are African American women. And this is woefully, woefully unacceptable,” Turner said.

Republican Sen. Anthony Bucco said he opposed the bill four years ago, but says his mind has been changed.

“I do believe that in order to have a better interaction between the community and law enforcement, the agencies need to better mirror the communities that they represent,” Bucco said.

The Senate committee also approved bills for implicit bias training, cultural diversity training and the development of an action plan. Another bill that puts a bull’s eye on the kind of false reporting, such as in the case of Central Park dog walker Amy Cooper.

“People can not make police calls and report crimes when there is no crime and when it’s just based on race,” said committee chair Sen. Linda Greenstein.

Tuesday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal took another step toward revising New Jersey’s use of force policy. He held his second webinar listening session. Among the topics were police reporting fellow officers for misconduct.

“Is starts at the front-line supervisors. We have to require and train the front-line supervisors to protect those officers that come to them with this information. They should be shielded just like a domestic violence victim when they come and report such misconduct because it can prevent further abuse. It can prevent further corruption, and misconduct and inappropriate actions, and policies and practices in the department early on,” said Franklin Township Police Chief Quovella Spruill.

New Jersey’s push to reform policing began before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the thousands of protests that followed.