By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The controversy following the death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has raised lots of questions over the lack of diversity of that city’s police force and in other towns across the country. Locally, the New Jersey State Police spent years fighting similar allegations. But the department’s last three classes of new troopers have made history.
In 2012, New Jersey state troopers graduated only two Black officers out of a class of 85. Diversity was so bad that the NAACP threatened to sue the state.
“It was something that was just a wound in the community that didn’t seem to heal,” said Loretta Winters of the Gloucester County NAACP.
That wound, Winters said, was the discovery in the late 1990s that racial profiling took place in state police stops. But state officials and the department promised change. Winters and others helped to recruit cadets of color and change community misconceptions.
“Young Black men and women don’t want to become police officers,” Winters said, “because they are taught at a very young age that the police are our enemy.”
One by one, they convinced people of color to apply.
“I’m so proud the state police did what they said they were going to do,” said Winters.
And, last December, New Jersey State Police welcomed 118 new troopers, with nearly half identifying as minority.
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