RUTGERS-NEWARK FACULTY TO TEACH CULTURAL-AWARENESS CLASSES
TO ALL N.J. STATE TROOPERS
Newark - The Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience (IECME) has partnered with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) to teach classes this fall in cultural awareness to all 2,700 of New Jersey's state troopers. The New Jersey attorney general's office entered into a contract with the IECME to create the classes in an effort to encourage both professional and personal growth among members of the NJSP.
This is the first time in the three-year-old program in cultural education that a single university has been given sole responsibility for teaching all the cultural-awareness courses to the entire force. Rutgers-Newark faculty and administrators are providing the training under the supervision of IECME director and Rutgers-Newark history professor Clement Price, who developed the curriculum with his staff.
N.J. Attorney General Peter Harvey asked the IECME to develop the courses on the recommendation of Mamta Patel, deputy director of State Police Affairs and key liaison between the attorney general's office and the NJSP. Patel had heard good things from a state trooper about a lecture given this past spring by Price at Rutgers-Newark's Police Institute to the top 45 division heads of the NJSP as part of their executive training, titled "The Way Race Works in History."
For the cultural-awareness training, Price said, "The professors from Rutgers-Newark are providing a large and rich humanities context for the troopers - not simply Diversity 101 or Good Policing 101. This is an example of public intellectual work that really matters to our community."
The teams of Rutgers-Newark faculty teaching the program come from a wide variety of disciplines, including English, history, anthropology, sociology and law. While some of the classes are being held on the university's campus, in other cases the professors will travel throughout the state to teach at NJSP headquarters in places such as Totowa and Sea Girt.
"We're trying to approach the troopers like we would any other students, and help them see themselves in the setting of contemporary history and social change, particularly amid the demographic changes in the Northeast brought about by waves of immigration," said English professor Charles Russell, a participant in the program.
The sessions arise from a consent decree issued by a New Jersey district judge in December 1999. The consent decree was the settlement of a lawsuit alleging racial profiling brought against the NJSP, the State of New Jersey and the N.J. Department of Law and Public Safety by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. The classes are scheduled to continue for at least two more years under the consent decree.
The state attorney general strongly supports the training. "The richness of our world, and indeed, New Jersey, results from different people, different cultures and different experiences," Harvey said. "The enlightened among us see difference as an opportunity to learn and grow beyond the narrow confines of our own self-imposed limits or acquired prejudgments. Through constant training and study, we will learn to embrace each other and embrace the Golden Rule as a way of life.
"Liberty and justice for all is not merely a slogan; it is a promise that each of us must keep."
Each trooper will attend a one-day, eight-hour course that is team-taught by a variety of Rutgers-Newark faculty and administrators. The courses began Oct. 20 and will continue through Dec. 19. About 30 troopers per session will receive the cultural awareness training from Price and his colleagues, while other troopers will simultaneously get ethical training from the NJSP's own Office of Professional Standards, according to Capt. Alfred Peters, commandant of the NJSP Training Bureau.
"I see it as a huge advantage for our state police," Peters noted. "It's leading to more open communication, which is essential for all of us."
Price, who team-teaches his classes with Russell, said he wanted to avoided merely lecturing the troopers, adopting instead a more interactive approach in which troopers can speak to each other in the classes and openly express their feelings both about the complexities of dealing with different cultures and about the impression of the state police created by the consent decree itself.
"We're encouraging the troopers to interact - to speak openly about race, immigrants, the history of the state police - and to critique, if they wish, both the consent decree and our faculty," Price said. "A number of troopers have thanked us for not talking down to them, but rather talking to them as thinking individuals." Price hopes to communicate that as American society becomes ever more diverse, new policing strategies are needed to keep pace with a rapidly changing cultural landscape.
Other Rutgers-Newark faculty and administrators teaching classes in this fall's cultural-awareness curriculum include Associate Provost Marcia Brown, history professor Tim Coogan, anthropology professor Brian Ferguson, sociology professor Max Herman, and Junius Williams, an attorney and associate of Rutgers-Newark's Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies.
# # #