Monmouth Junction woman suing North Brunswick over racial profiling

Tyesha Brockington of Monmouth Junction is suing the city of North Brunswick over allegations that she was racially profiled by police in a traffic stop nearly three years ago.

Brockington claims that she was targeted after picking up a male friend at a motel that was known to be frequented by drug dealers and buyers.

She says that the officer who pulled her over followed her for several minutes before making the stop and that the officer’s real reason for pulling her over was to question her friend.

Brockington’s allegations are supported by several whistleblower officers who have confirmed that racial profiling is a problem in the North Brunswick Police Department.

In June, Brockington’s ticket was dismissed, but she is still seeking all of the evidence from the traffic stop in order to prove her case. She has filed a civil lawsuit demanding all video footage, police reports, and other records related to the stop.

The township has denied Brockington’s allegations, but a judge has ordered mediation in the case.

Brockington is hoping that mediation will lead to the release of the evidence she needs to prove her case.

“I felt like I was interrogated, harassed, intimidated, and profiled,” Brockington said. “I want to know why, why did this happen to me?”

Brockington’s case is one of several recent cases of alleged racial profiling by police in New Jersey but the situation is not new.

In 1988, Joe Collum’s “Without Just Cause,” investigative report on WWOR-TV Secaucus, introduced the world to the term “racial profiling” after he noticed a recurring scene on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike: White state troopers rifling through the belongings of Black and Latino motorists. Collum, an investigative reporter, scoured arrest records in dozens of municipalities and found that Black and Latino drivers accounted for the vast majority — 80 percent — of all New Jersey State Police (NJSP) arrests along New Jersey’s main artery.

State police denied they were targeting minorities. But a group of attorneys, motivated by Collum’s reports, sued troopers, and a state court affirmed for the first time the existence of racial profiling by law enforcement. The Justice Department ordered an end to the practice.

In 1997, the Newark-based Star-Ledger reported that minorities represented 75 percent of all turnpike arrests. Several high-profile lawsuits over the stops — including one in 1998 in which troopers fired into a van and injured three unarmed young men of color on the turnpike — prompted a federal response.

In 1999, the Justice Department put the force of more than 2,500 state troopers under a federal consent decree, ordering the department to track racial disparities in turnpike enforcement and eliminate discrimination.

That year, for the first time, the New Jersey attorney general publicly acknowledged racial profiling by troopers, calling it “real, not imagined.”

Nearly 30 years later, the most recent audit revealed that Black drivers were still being subjected more often to searches, arrests, and uses of force after traffic stops by state police.

In May 2020, the New Jersey comptroller’s office, tasked with monitoring reforms, released a sixth report indicating that state police methods for tracking racial discrimination in traffic stops were inadequate because troopers’ stops were being compared to one another, not to the overall population of the turnpike. If officers were biased across the board, the comptroller’s office argued, the state police would have no way of knowing.

In its eighth periodic review of the NJSP, the comptroller’s office again 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.

Governor Phil Murphy

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