Six criminal justice reform bills were advanced Tuesday by a Senate committee, setting most of them up for final approval Thursday.

Though there wasn’t a vote against of them, there was still a bit of tension at the hearing.

Sen. Joseph Cryan, D-Union, said legislation that requires police departments to have minority recruitment and selection programs should be made more specific, so future attorneys general can’t reduce them.

“This bill basically has a moving goal, no funding, and no definitive baseline. That’s a concern,” Cryan said.

Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, said the 20-member Legislative Black Caucus knows the bill could be a lot tighter but wants to get it passed soon while the movement has momentum, rather than risk a setback.

“I’m tired of fighting the same battles over and over, the same conversation over and over,” Rice said. “It ain’t no such thing as the time is right now. The time was right back then.”

“we’re at a point in time now in 2020, we’re tired,” he said. “Our civil rights leaders are dying every day. We’re trying to raise new ones. And we’re fighting some of the same people.”

Cryan supported the bill but said it has shortcomings and that he’s willing to point that out.

“I know it’s hard to believe, but I actually represent people of color, too. And I have a voice, and I was elected by those folks to be a voice,” Cryan said.

Sen. Shirley Turner said it’s not enough for law-enforcement agencies to say they want to hire more minority police officers, pointing to a reduction in the percentage of Black state troopers.

“Communities here in New Jersey, which is one of the most diverse states in the union, it’s upside-down,” Turner said.

Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, said he no longer opposes the hiring bill, although he still has questions about how it would work with small departments.

“As a result of the hearings that we held here and the information that I’ve seen over the last six months, eight months, my mind has been changed,” Bucco said. “I do believe that in order to have a better interaction between the community and law enforcement, the agency needs to better mirror the community that they represent.”

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The group of bills advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee included:

  • S401/A2394: Requires law enforcement agencies in this State to establish minority recruitment and selection programs; establishes reporting requirement.
  • S415: Requires Division of Parole to offer parole services to certain defendants who have served their maximum sentence.
  • S419: Requires law enforcement agencies to provide law enforcement officers with cultural diversity training and develop diversity action plan.
  • S2578/2635/A1906/4230: Includes crime of false reports to law enforcement authorities as form of bias intimidation.
  • S2638/A1076: Requires AG to collect, record, analyze, and report certain prosecutorial and criminal justice data.
  • S2689/A3641: Requires DLPS to incorporate implicit bias in cultural diversity training materials for law enforcement officers; makes mandatory cultural diversity and implicit bias training for law enforcement officers.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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