by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor
Citizens can now investigate the demographics of their police departments in a new public database unveiled Thursday by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
The police diversity dashboard is intended to increase transparency, two years after state lawmakers passed a law requiring agencies to work toward making their staff as diverse as the communities they serve.
Statewide, the database confirms what reformers have long decried: that police officers are overwhelmingly white and male.
Of 30,505 full-time, sworn officers in the database, 70% are white and 89% are male, while 52% of New Jersey’s 9.3 million residents are white and the same amount are female, data shows.
In some of New Jersey’s most diverse cities, officers are more racially diverse: In Newark, just 20% of the 1,034-officer department is white, compared to 12% of all city residents; 39% of Jersey City’s 937 officers are white, compared to 27% of residents; and 38% of Paterson’s 408 officers are white, compared to 14% of residents.
But in smaller communities that are racially diverse, departments skew white: In Bridgeton, 63% of the 65 officers are white, compared to 16% of residents; 67% of Lindenwold’s 43 officers are white, compared to 30% of residents; and 67% of Rahway’s 81 officers are white, compared to 34% of residents.
“In a state as diverse as New Jersey, it is imperative that law enforcement reflect the diversity of the communities we serve, especially as we seek to build trust between police and the community members they are sworn to protect,” acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement.
Database users can research the age, gender, race, and ethnicity of officers by state, county, and agency.
The law also requires agencies to report the demographics of applicants they recruit, reject, hire, and promote, but that data is missing from the new dashboard because agencies only began reporting data in December, the Attorney General’s Office said. That data will be reported next year.
Sophie Nieto-Muñoz contributed to this article.