- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey state police will roll out a recruiting campaign this spring to attract new troopers, with an emphasis on bringing more minorities to the outfit - particularly black women.

Currently there are just eight black female troopers in the agency of 2,539 members, state police enlisted members data show.

Major Latrecia Littles-Floyd, the chief of staff of the state police and an African-American, said the state police have to work harder to attract black women to their ranks, a task they’re failing at currently.

“We have to get out there and ask ‘what is it about the State Police that isn’t attractive?’” Littles-Floyd told The Press of Atlantic City (http://bit.ly/1frSvM4).

And that’s what they’ve been doing, beginning up north and soon extending to south Jersey.

On Feb. 14, members of the state police and state Attorney General’s Office traveled to Atlantic City to meet with community leaders, elected officials and other law-enforcement agencies to discuss a career day in the city in an effort to expose minority residents to law enforcement.

The meeting was organized by community leader Kaleem Shabazz and was attended by Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle, Atlantic City police Chief Henry White, Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain and Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest D. Coursey Sr.

Shabazz said the Muslim Outreach Group under the state Attorney General’s Office previously held successful law-enforcement career days in northern and central New Jersey to expose the community to police careers. Now, one of those events will take place in South Jersey, sponsored by Atlantic City’s Coalition for a Safe Community, Shabazz said.

Shabazz said he was impressed by state police Sgt. Brian Polite, a black man who grew up in Newark. At the February meeting, Polite told his story of pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“I think there are a lot of Brians in the Atlantic County area who could benefit from this type of program. A lot of times people just need the information. There are some people who have thought about it and then put it out of their minds. I think there is enough interest for us to have a successful event,” Shabazz said.

Polite said when he was growing up in Newark there were not a lot of positive role models and he didn’t have much exposure to law enforcement. In his neighborhood, he said, it was always thought of as a bad thing.

“When I got to college and became a trooper, I wanted to change that and show young people that law enforcement is not the enemy. This is a good job and you can make a difference in your community,” he said.

Polite said he never knew what a state trooper in uniform looked like until the day he went to take the test.

Encouraging young people to look at a career in law enforcement is essential to the success of the recruitment drive, said Coursey, particularly in cities where youths don’t typically pursue that avenue.

“Some folks say, ‘I don’t want to be a cop, that makes me a snitch. I’m not a snitch,’” he said. “We’ve got to erase that stigma,” he said.

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