Earlier this month, monitors from the Department of Justice reported that the New Jersey State Police are in total compliance with a federal consent decree that ordered an end racial profiling by police officers.
But Governor Jon Corzine, like the ACLU, is skeptical. After all, it was just a couple years ago that a local New Jersey police department was sued for racial discrimination by three African-American teenagers in a case brought by the ACLU of New Jersey. Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey, wrote in a Star-Ledger op-ed that the state needs an oversight office that reviews these local departments as well as the state police.
Jacobs points out the many flaws in the report, which claims the police have made significant strides in training its officers and halting racially discriminatory traffic stops. Among the flaws is the police’s failure to document the race of motorists stopped by the police, not just the legality of the traffic stop. If both factors were monitored, it would reveal something we all know: Minorities are the primary targets of traffic stops.
In response to the report, Gov. Corzine said he would seek the input of his appointed Advisory Committee on Police Standards before allowing the state to discontinue supervision and remove the federal consent decree, which was entered after numerous complaints of racial profiling and the police shooting of three men of color on the Turnpike.
In her op-ed, Jacobs offered a number of recommendations for Gov. Corzine, including the formation of an independent police oversight office, and the establishment of a license system that accredits police officers the same way other professions, from doctors to manicurists, are licensed.
All people, irrespective of their race, deserve the protection of the police, and protection from police abuse. But this can only happen with accurate measures and active engagement in ending racial profiling.