That year, for the first time, the New Jersey attorney general publicly acknowledged racial profiling by troopers, calling it “real, not imagined.”
Then, in 2003, 12 motorists who sued the state police arguing that they had been racially profiled won more than $775,000.
Finally, in 2010, a U.S. District judge ended the decree, indicating that the state police had satisfied the requirements. The state police superintendent, Col. Rick Fuentes, called it a “watershed moment for the division,” adding that the reforms had “instilled public confidence and trust.”
But by 2016, disparity in traffic stop outcomes had returned: Black drivers accounted for 20 percent of traffic stops by troopers in the first half of the year, but were 39 percent of the drivers subjected to additional actions after the stop, a review by the state attorney general’s office found.
For example, Black drivers represented the largest proportion of motorists subjected to probable cause searches after traffic stops — 40 percent, compared with 38 percent for White drivers, who account for 59 percent of all stops.
“As noted throughout this report, the proportions of Black drivers involved in specific post-stop activities were high. … Black drivers made up the majority of stops involving vehicle exits, probable cause searches, use of force, and charges filed in the current reporting period,” according to the 2018 traffic enforcement review.
The report said Black drivers were more likely to have outstanding warrants, representing 52 percent of all wanted people. “Thus, the trooper has no discretion and must arrest the individual, which may be related to the larger proportion of Black individuals arrested or Black drivers who were arrested and searched,” the report noted.
Following the 1999 consent decree, state law required monitoring reports twice a year, though the 2018 report is the most recent. State police and the attorney general’s office declined to share more current statistics. The office, however, said it is working on an online dashboard with the latest traffic enforcement data.
In May 2020, the New Jersey comptroller’s office, also tasked with monitoring the Justice reforms, released a 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.
Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police since 2017, told The Post the department is doing all it can to train officers to police equitably and is tracking officer behavior to prevent profiling. Callahan, however, said his department “should be doing a better job” of educating people about its efforts to end racial profiling.
“With all the mitigation efforts we have in place, we haven’t uncovered [racial profiling],” Callahan said. “The last thing people want to hear is, ‘It is what it is,’ but . . . I would hold us up against any agency in the country as far as the scrutiny we put ourselves under. ”