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Danielsen Bill To Help Law Enforcement Agencies With Diversity Training Is Now Law

Danielsen 2015 Safety Forum - 1

Another bill co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, (D-17), has been signed into law by Gov. Christie.


A revised bill, co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen (D-17), designed to better prepare law enforcement agencies to handle racial, ethnic, religious and other diversities has been signed into law.

Other co-sponsors of the bill, (A-1663), were Assembly Democrats Gary S. Schaer, Speaker Vincent Prieto, Shavonda Sumter and Gordon M. Johnson.

The version signed Aug. 9 by Gov. Chris Christie incorporates suggestions he made in his conditional veto of the original bill. The original bill would have required every local and county law enforcement department in the state to develop and adopt a cultural diversity training course. The revamped legislation instead requires the Department of Law and Public Safety to develop or identify uniform cultural diversity training course materials and an online tutorial, and to periodically update them, as appropriate.

Under the new law, the materials and tutorial must include instruction designed to promote positive interaction with, and community outreach to, all residents within a community, including residents of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The department is also required to make the materials and online tutorial available to every state, county, and municipal law enforcement department and to each campus police department at an institution of higher education that appoints police officers.

These law enforcement agencies may use the training materials or online tutorial in providing in-service training to officers.

“The bottom line is that understanding the people the department serves is an important part of community policing,” Danielsen said in a press release about the signing. “One of the primary responsibilities of a law enforcement officer is to interact with people of various cultures, and this law will ensure that officers can do so appropriately.”

“Without an inherent understanding of a particular culture, there can be a tendency toward overgeneralization or labeling. This is how stereotyping is born and also how deeply divisive misunderstandings can occur,” Schaer said in the release. “Given all that we’ve witnessed in the last year or two throughout the country, greater emphasis must be placed on partnering law enforcement agencies with ethnic, cultural, religious and social organizations to develop strategies that encourage a true understanding of one another and meaningful community engagement. This new law remains true to that goal.”

“There is a vicious cycle that can develop because of a lack of cultural education, one that begins with stereotyping and then breeds distrust of law enforcement,” Preto said in the release. “Without the trust of the community, law enforcement, in turn, has a hard time functioning. It’s time to break this cycle and start a meaningful dialogue between communities and those sworn to protect them. This law takes a proactive approach to building greater understanding and cooperation.”

 

“Law enforcement officers have a sworn duty to protect and serve people of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. However, police interactions with residents can be complicated by situations where there is a lack of knowledge about the cultural diversity in the community,” Sumter said in the release. “This can lead to inadvertent violations of someone’s rights or create safety risks for a law enforcement officer. It’s crucial, especially in today’s climate, that we work to foster a better understanding on both sides of the street.”

“Oftentimes, all it takes to de-escalate a situation is an officer being able to relate to members of the community,” Johnson said in the release. “Cultural diversity training can help law enforcement officers strengthen their relationships with citizens, which ultimately creates a safer environment for everyone involved.”

 

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