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Governor Chris Christie signs police diversity training bill

Updated on August 17, 2016

Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) signed a bill Tuesday that requires all of the state's police officers to undergo cultural sensitivity training.

The Decision

The Governor's decision to sign the bill came a little over a month after he vetoed a broader bill that would have required every New Jersey community to develop their own cultural sensitivity training for law enforcement. Under the new bill, the New Jersey attorney general will be tasked with developing a statewide curriculum.

The decision to require additional training for police comes amid a raging national controversy over police shootings and violence directed at police officers. Following the shootings of unarmed African-American men in St. Paul, Minn. and Baton Rouge, La., Dallas police were killed in an ambush during a protest. Days later, Baton Rouge police were similarly ambushed.

In the wake of those tragedies, many leaders - including President Obama - said it was time for the country to re-examine the relationship between law enforcement and citizens they are sworn to protect.

According to the text of the New Jersey law, the goal is to "establish positive relationships between the police and various community groups." The training would also help law enforcement officials think through "innovative strategies designed to create safe and stable neighborhoods."

Cultural Diversity Training

Under the new law, the state Department of Law and Public Safety - led by the state's attorney general - will develop cultural diversity training materials that all officers across the state will use. There will also be an online tutorial to help local police chiefs develop a "cultural diversity action plan" for their departments.

The bill that Christie vetoed in June went much further. It would have required each police department's sensitivity training to be designed to discuss sensitivities specific to that community. For instance, the sensitivity training in heavily African-American Camden would have likely differed significantly from sensitivity training in areas of the state with large Hispanic populations.

While Christie did not come out swinging vigorously against the earlier version, he called it an unfunded mandate and said he had concerns about the financial and temporal costs that police departments would have had to spend complying with it.

While the sponsor of both bills, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, expressed disappointment with the earlier veto, he said the version signed this week represented an imperfect compromise.

"It's not exactly what we wanted but it takes us in the right direction," Schaer told reporters.

David Firester specializes in intelligence analysis.


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