OSC Finds Certain New Jersey State Police Training Practices Inconsistent With Requirements of Federal Consent Decree

OSC’s eighth review of the New Jersey State Police examined the Training Bureau’s practices and policies, including instructor selection and course instruction.

  • Posted on - 11/10/2022


TRENTON – In its eighth periodic review of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), OSC identified multiple ways in which the NJSP’s policies and practices for training new recruits and current troopers are inconsistent with a 1999 Consent Decree on racial profiling. In addition to instructor selection issues, certain trainings offered by NJSP also deviated from the curriculum for the most recent Use of Force Policy issued by the Office of the Attorney General.

OSC is required by the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Act to review NJSP and the Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEPS), an office within the Attorney General’s Office that oversees a vast array of NJSP’s policies and procedures, including training. OSC’s oversight of NJSP stems from the settlement of a 1999 lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against NJSP and the State of New Jersey for improperly targeting motorists on the basis of race. To settle that lawsuit, the State committed to reforms involving the management and operation of NJSP in a Consent Decree. Among other things, the Consent Decree mandated reforms in training to create and maintain non-discriminatory practices in policing in New Jersey.

“The consent decree is intended to guard against the unconstitutional and offensive practice of racial profiling,” said Acting State Comptroller Kevin D. Walsh.  “This report and others I’ve issued show the New Jersey State Police can do more to comply with the both the letter and the spirit of the Consent Decree and to ensure constitutional policing.  Effective training of troopers by dedicated instructors committed to this mission –by setting the right tone, discouraging racial profiling, and ensuring policies involving use of force are followed – is critical.” 

OSC’s eighth review found that:

  • The training provided by NJSP significantly deviated from the established curriculum, with certain instructors eliminating entire segments from Consent Decree-related courses and reducing a 7-hour course mandated by the Office of the Attorney General’s Use of Force policy to only 2 hours of instruction;
  • Although NJSP requires permanent instructors to go through a rigorous selection process that includes a review of the trooper’s disciplinary history, it does not subject temporary instructors to the same level of scrutiny. This practice is at odds with the Consent Decree’s requirement that all candidates for training positions be subjected to the same eligibility and selection process. This practice risks allowing troopers with problematic disciplinary histories to serve as instructors;
  • NJSP does not document its process of evaluating and selecting experienced troopers to serve as mentors or “trooper coaches” to new troopers. This resulted in NJSP being unable to explain to OSC why troopers with questionable disciplinary histories—including those suspended for driving while intoxicated, assault, and falsifying reports—were selected to be trooper coaches;
  • NJSP lacked a policy and practice that required the training bureau to update lesson plans and course materials at regular intervals. A survey of lessons plans revealed a 14-year delay between updates for one class and a 7-year delay between updates for another class;
  • NJSP’s training program and course content could be improved by implementing teaching methods that aim to ensure troopers possess an understanding of course materials, by conducting evaluations and providing feedback to instructors, and by adopting performance objectives that ensure recruits fully comprehend and are able to apply the information taught.

OLEPS is tasked with ensuring that NJSP’s practices and policies comply with the Consent Decree and established standards. The findings in this report demonstrate that OLEPS has improvements to make in its oversight of NJSP’s training efforts.

The recommendations contained in OSC’s report seek to ensure that NJSP maintains compliance with the Consent Decree, adheres to the mandates of the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Act, and follows the curriculum for the Attorney General’s Use of Force policy.

Among the eleven recommendations in its review, OSC suggests that NJSP deliver trainings mandated by the Consent Decree and the Attorney General’s Use of Force Policy in accordance with the requirements of the training materials; that NJSP subject all instructor candidates, including those on temporary assignment, to the same rigorous selection process and increase the number of instructors on staff; that NJSP document its decision-making process for selecting troopers to serve as mentors, and that NJSP revise its training materials to include best practices for adult learning, and adopt performance standards that create a comprehensive training curricula.

“We will review whether the recommendations in our reports are satisfied and continue to provide important transparency,” said Walsh.

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The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) is an independent State agency that works to make government in New Jersey more efficient, transparent and accountable. OSC is tasked with examining all aspects of government expenditures, conducts audits and investigations of government agencies throughout New Jersey, reviews government contracts, and works to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in Medicaid.

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