Under pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, New Jersey agreed Wednesday to the appointment of an outside civilian monitor to make sure the State Police end racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.
The consent decree, which awaits judicial approval, is a way to avoid a full-blown civil rights battle in open court, according to Bill Lann Lee, acting chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division.
Federal authorities also required the state to expand its planned system for tracking trooper patrols with an eye toward detecting any troubling patterns. Authorities also required that the system be in place within six months.
The public will have access to some of these results. The consent decree provides for reports to be made public every six months with statistics on highway traffic stops, including the race of those stopped and the results of the stops.
"That data, and information on misconduct allegations and other matters, can be used by the State Police to identify any patterns of problematic behavior," Lee said.
Lee said traffic stops by highway patrols were a legitimate and necessary tool of law enforcement. But "any racial or ethnic discrimination in deciding who to stop, ticket or search is wrong, legally or morally."
Earlier this year, the state acknowledged racial profiling of motorists and racial discrimination in the State Police ranks.
Lee joined New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer in Trenton to announce the plan, with the state agreeing to the independent monitor and federal authorities accepting the reforms previously proposed by state officials.
Federal authorities have insisted on independent monitoring in other civil rights settlements involving police in Pittsburgh and in Steubenville, Ohio. These monitors answer only to a federal judge.