As reported by nj.com, when the New Jersey State Police’s first class of recruits in two years reports for training today, only five of 123 will be black, a striking failure in the division’s decade long effort to achieve greater diversity. Now, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”), which settled discrimination claims with the State Police in 2000 to force greater minority recruitment, says it will return to court to argue the state has given only lip service to the problem.
The NAACP’s vow of legal action reignites a contentious debate about why the State Police struggles to enlist new black troopers. While minorities like Hispanics have gained ground in the past 11 years, the percentage of black troopers has fallen from 8 percent to 6.4 percent, state figures show. With more than one-third of black troopers nearing retirement, their ranks are expected to thin to levels not seen since the division was under federal oversight for discriminatory hiring decades ago.
The new State Police class, selected more than a year ago, is more diverse than the current 2,768 troopers. It is 72.4 percent white, 17.9 percent Hispanic, 4.9 percent Asian, 4.1 percent African-American and 0.8 percent Native American. It’s 88 percent male and 12 percent female. But the class is still less diverse than the state, which is 68.6 percent white and 13.7 percent black.
The State Police has faced scrutiny on hiring minorities for decades. Before the NAACP lawsuit, the division was under watch by the U.S. Department of Justice from 1975 to 1992. Minorities now make up 17 percent of the force.
The NAACP says the state is not trying hard enough. The Attorney General’s Office says the African-American community is not referring enough qualified recruits. The troopers union says the company that scores the written tests for recruits uses a secretive system that may exclude good black candidates. ‘We’re not getting enough African-Americans and we’re not getting the best candidates,” State Troopers Fraternal Association President David Jones said. “The system is a complete farce because it’s not fair to anyone.”