NJ Governor Signs Law To Require ‘Implicit Bias Training’ for Police Every Five Years

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In response to growing concerns about police brutality and racial injustice, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation yesterday that requires law enforcement officers to undergo implicit bias and cultural training once every five years. After the murder of George Floyd earlier this year, nationwide protest sparked conversations about police reform at all levels of government. Murphy said that requiring implicit bias training for law enforcement officers, which was previously optional, “is a part of a comprehensive approach to ensure that New Jersey is second to none in demanding the highest standards of accountability and professionalism from our law enforcement officers.”

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Concerns about the brutal policing of marginalized groups have grown over the last decade. Across New Jersey, data show that a Black person is significantly more likely than a white person to have force used on them by police. In Hoboken, based on population, a Black person is 1543% more likely to have force used on them by police than a White person, according to F.B.I. data.

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Implicit bias training, lawmakers say, is meant to make someone more aware of their nonconscious prejudices and stereotypes. An implicit training can include workshops on acknowledging and identifying bias, empathizing with other identity groups, and meditation. As the thinking goes, this training can help police officers recognize and correct damaging forms of bias, ultimately leading to better policing {although scientists are still unsure whether or not bias training actually has any effect}.

The lawmakers who proposed the legislation said that implicit bias training will be an important step toward addressing racial injustice in the state. “The rise in police incidences resulting in the death of men and women of color has sounded an alarm in communities throughout the nation,” said Assemblymembers Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Carol Murphy, and Britnee Timberlake, who proposed the bill. “We must now focus on providing law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to train the officers to acknowledge implicit bias reactions and instead, keep ad impart compassion in their work in the diverse communities they serve.”

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According to state officials, this legislation expands other initiatives meant to support better policing, including programs that focus on the mental health and wellness for police officers; mandated implicit bias training for prosecutors, state and county detectives and state troopers; a statewide conviction review board; and the “independent prosecutor law,” which requires that use of force by officers resulting in death be independently investigated by the Attorney General’s Office and a ban on chokeholds, except in extreme circumstances.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said this legislation was the right thing to do. “This new law codifies these efforts so these trainings remain a permanent feature of the Department, and ensures that future Administrations continue our commitment to racial justice and excellence in policing,” Grewal said.

Jiles Ship, Commissioner of the New Jersey Police Training Commission, commended Murphy for signing this law, saying that the legislation “is a big step in the right direction.”

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Matthew Cunningham covers local stories on LGBTQ life, city council, local business, inequality, and science. Born in Arkansas, Matthew is a student at Stevens Institute of Technology and a proud gay Hoboken resident. When he isn't dashing to a zoning board meeting or interviewing lawmakers, he enjoys exploring restaurants on Washington Street, scootering on Frank Sinatra Drive, and getting a taste of the big city life.