Home>Highlight>Policing and racial bias bills pass Assembly, with some Republican opposition

Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Policing and racial bias bills pass Assembly, with some Republican opposition

By Joey Fox, February 28 2022 6:28 pm

Three bills addressing police accountability and racial bias training passed the Assembly today, marking the final day of Black History Month and the first controversial pieces of policy-focused legislation of this session.

If eventually signed into law, the three bills would require police departments to hold community roundtables at least twice a year, mandate cultural diversity and implicit bias training in the police training curriculum, and require that same training be given to members and employees of the state legislature.

The trio was variously sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton), Shanique Speight (D-Newark), Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), and Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange), who collectively make up a significant portion of the Assembly’s Black delegation.

Each bill drew modest opposition from Republican legislators, though all three garnered at least some Republican votes. Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), who voted against all three bills, spoke on the floor in opposition to the legislative bias training bill, saying that legislators should instead be required to read the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

“I don’t think that implicit bias and cultural competency training is worthy of who we are, frankly, as Americans,” Webber said. “We stand as inheritors of one of the greatest legacies of equality and opportunity that the world has ever known… We are worthy of so much more than the latest fad in social science.”

Following the vote, Timberlake criticized Webber’s comments in an interview with WHYY’s Tennyson Donyéa.

“To use Dr. King as an example of a quote to undergird the racist thought that bias sensitivity training is not needed … really shows how disconnected he truly is to the struggle and the plight of a people who have built this country on our backs through free labor,” she said.

None of the three bills have yet come up for a vote in their respective Senate committees.

This story was updated at 7:21 p.m. with remarks from Assemblywoman Timberlake.

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