In Brief

Bills would require bias training for lawmakers and cops

By: - February 28, 2022 3:32 pm

Assembyman Jay Webber (Courtesy of New Jersey Assembly GOP)

The New Jersey Assembly on Monday passed two bills that would require implicit bias training for all lawmakers and police departments, despite a brief, impassioned speech from one Republican who condemned such training as “the latest fad.”

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) proposed amending the legislation to require instead biennial readings of the Declaration of Independence and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Those historical documents are “better” ways for legislators to remind themselves of their commitment to equality, said Webber, who recited a passage from the Declaration of Independence during his 5-minute speech.

“I don’t think that implicit bias and cultural competency training is worthy of who we are, frankly, as Americans,” Webber said. “It doesn’t really work. People may become aware of some implicit bias that they might have, but it doesn’t change any behavior, and they can’t figure out how to make it work because people are hard-wired certain ways.

He added: “Why would we subject ourselves to that?”

A majority of the Assembly disagreed with him, though, and without discussion, tabled Webber’s motion to amend the legislation.

The Assembly then passed the first bill, requiring implicit bias training for legislators and legislative employees, 58-18. The second bill, requiring such training for police officers during basic training, passed 61-11, with two abstentions.

The prime sponsors of both bills were Assemblywomen Shanique Speight (D-Essex), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer), and Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic). In a statement, they argued lawmakers who create bills that impact people of all backgrounds and cultures should understand their own biases as well as cultures and belief systems different than their own.

Identical versions of the bills are now before the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.