Officials from the NAACP are threatening to sue the New Jersey State Police unless it immediately revamps its hiring practices, particularly the stringent background checks of candidates who are prospective recruits, according to various published and broadcast reports last week.
According to the Newark State Ledger, an attorney reported that a demand to investigate the hiring practices of the department was made after an African-American applicant graduated from the most recent State Police training class in January. The applicant was effectively eliminated from possible employment after discrepancies and additional information were revealed after an extensive background check. While the applicant has not been identified, an attorney speaking on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission authorized him to file suit against the department in June for racial discrimination.
In a statement released to the press shortly after details of the impending lawsuit were made public, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said he wants to build a police force represents the African-American population. In New Jersey, nearly 15 percent of all residents are Black. Said Chiesa, "The NAACP has a seat at the table as we continue to review and revise ways to attract the most qualified candidates of all backgrounds to be part of the State Police."
According to state figures, in the most recent class of recruits there were 33 African-Americans who passed the written exam, six dropped out and 22 were disqualified for failing the background check. Five were chosen for the academy but only two graduated.
Lastly, the State Police of New Jersey has a long and mostly unflattering history in the Garden State when it comes to issues related to African-Americans. Stretching back to complaints and lawsuits stemming from racial profiling to excessive force and questionable or unjustifiable shootings, state troopers are seldom revered. In 2000, after countless allegations of racial profiling and other issues, the NAACP and State Police officials signed off on a measure to hire more officers of color. In 10 years, recruitment of African-Americans has slipped from 8 percent to 6 percent. The number of Hispanics and women, however, has increased.
"Candidates can be disqualified for things like drug convictions, suspended licenses, poor credit histories and even unpaid parking tickets," said Richard Weber, a labor relations attorney in New Jersey. "It's an intense process and designed to determine the best candidates."