All police officers in New Jersey will receive cultural diversity training under a new law enacted by Gov. Chris Christie.
The law requires the Department of Law and Public Safety to develop course material and an online tutorial that can be used by all state, local and county police departments. The bill also calls upon local police chiefs to draft cultural diversity action plans for their specific municipalities.
“Without an inherent understanding of a particular culture, there can be a tendency toward overgeneralization or labeling,” Assemblyman Gary Schaer, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, told NorthJersey.com.
“This is how stereotyping is born and also how deeply divisive misunderstandings can occur,” he added.
Christie had originally vetoed an earlier version of the bill, which would have required more than 500 law enforcement agencies to develop training programs unique to each community — a proposal that the New Jersey governor called “costly” and “unfunded.”
The revised bill instead creates a single, statewide training course, intended to “establish positive relationships between the police and various community groups” according to the text of the bill.
State Attorney General Christopher Porrino told NJ.com that he welcomed the new bill, adding that training on “cultural awareness, de-escalation and racial profiling” is vital to promoting “positive interactions.”
Communities in New Jersey have already taken steps to neutralize the heightened levels of criticism and fear felt in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting. Princeton held a special forum in July, for example, that included dialogue between a white police officer, Bill Kieffer, and a former gang member, Tone Bellamy.
“It is not normal for a black man and a white cop to feel comfortable together in our country,” Bellamy said at the forum. The two discussed Bellamy’s experience of being frequently pulled over by the police and Kieffer’s reaction to the Dallas shooting.
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert stressed the need to “understand a multitude of perspectives” at the forum, according to Town Topics. “The work in communities like Princeton will set the national model,” Lempert said.
The diversity training program passed the assembly by a 65-12 vote and passed unanimously in the Senate.
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