Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Jersey State Police are flunking the minorities they recruited: tests and background checks foil effort for a more-diverse force

Rick Hepp:

On Friday, 102 men and women are expected to walk across the stage at the State Police training academy in Sea Girt, collect their badges and join the ranks of New Jersey's top law enforcement agency.

This latest batch of graduating troopers looks like many of the previous classes, but less and less like the state they will serve. Seventy-nine of the 102 are white men.

Seven years and millions of dollars after the State Police conceded their minority recruiting efforts were "significantly flawed" and pledged improvement, the race and gender makeup of the rank and file remains effectively unchanged.

A Star-Ledger analysis of recruiting data since 1999 shows more minorities and women than ever are applying for the force but are being rejected because they fail admission tests at disproportionately higher rates.

This rejection, according to the newspaper's analysis, occurs at various stages of the multitiered selection process: Hispanics and black candidates failed the background check at least three times more often than white applicants; women were nearly three times as likely as men to fail the physical; seven in 10 black applicants didn't pass the written test.

Why the failures persist and how to fix them have perplexed four successive attorneys general and four State Police superintendents. And they linger despite an overhaul of the recruiting and testing process, the hiring of outside consultants to grade applicants, and regular monitoring by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which sued the state a decade ago to address the issue.

In the past decade, the state's minority population has steadily risen and now hovers near 35 percent. By 2025, Census estimates indicate, almost half of New Jersey's residents will be members of minorities.

Today white males account for one-third of the state's population. But they make up four-fifths of the 2,966 active members of the State Police force, a rate only slightly lower than the racial makeup in 1999.

Crime Capital

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