BLACKWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New Jersey State Police announced Thursday it would start accepting job applications in May for its next class of troopers for the first time in more than two years.
They are also undertaking an outreach effort to encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds.
The state police have fielded criticism from the NAACP for not hiring more minorities in the past. New Jersey NAACP President James Harris said he sees the outreach effort as an opportunity to correct that, but would wait to see if it pans out.
Whites make up 82 percent of the nearly 2,800 troopers in the state. Blacks make up 6 percent and Hispanics 9 percent. But of all New Jersey residents, 68 percent are white, 13 percent are black and 18 percent are Hispanic.
Harris has recommended the state police hire local police who have been laid off in recent years, many of whom are minorities, to fill the two classes totaling 225 troopers.
“We know that will work, but whether or not they’ll do that is what we’re waiting to see,” Harris said.
Harris also praised the state police for working with his group to recruit minorities, noting that they have co-hosted several events in recent weeks. But he also said the state police have struggled with racial profiling. He said greater diversity in the force would help address that.
Officer Julian Castellanos, head of the state police recruiting unit, said the force should ideally mirror the state population. And State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said working with minority leaders and recruiting aggressively is the best way to achieve that goal, along with advertising on the radio and in newspapers.
“We have a diverse population in the state, and it’s important to be able to connect with the people they serve,” Castellanos said.
But officials said changing the force’s demographics won’t be accomplished by changing the requirements or giving special consideration to minority applicants.
“We haven’t done that and we’re not going to do it,” Fuentes said. “We have a very good candidate who comes across the stage at the end and our hope is we’re going to recruit increasingly diverse classes.”
Harris said there’s no reason the next class of recruits shouldn’t be more diverse than the last, which had only five black officers out of 123 new recruits.
“We have to see if they’re committed and effective in getting those people into the academy,” he said. “The dog-and-pony show is not going to impress us.”
Applications will be accepted online May 7-29 at NJTrooper.com. Applications have not been accepted since February 2010.
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