When the New Jersey State Police's first class of recruits in two years reported for training yesterday, only five of 123 were black, a striking failure in the division's decade-long effort to achieve greater diversity, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 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 governor's office said the issue will get attention from the highest levels of state government. 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. 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. “It's actually going backwards rather than forwards,” said James Harris, president of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP. “The state doesn't keep its promises.”