Amid the ongoing tension between police officers and civilians, New Jersey may introduce a program next year to bridge the gap between everyday Americans and the law enforcement officers who police them. Passed last week in the state Assembly, a New Jersey bill would mandate police interaction training for public school students from kindergarten to grade 12. The bill received overwhelming support in the Assembly's vote, but it still needs to pass in the state Senate to become law.
According to the state legislature's website, Assembly bill A1114 passed last week with 76 "yes" votes and zero "no" votes. Four representatives did not vote. On the same day of the successful Assembly vote, the bill was referred to the Senate's education committee, but it's unclear when a vote will take place.
If it becomes law, A1114 would require each New Jersey public school district to incorporate "instruction on interacting with a law enforcement official" into its social studies curriculum. The instruction would take place at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, teaching students to how to interact with a police officer "in a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect." The bill was first introduced in 2016, but its passage in the Assembly last week appears to be begging a common question among Americans.
Wouldn't it be better to require police to learn how to interact with public?— Kate Fangman (@KateFangman) June 23, 2017
In reality, police officer training has also changed in New Jersey since the escalation of police-civilian tensions in recent years. Last October, New Jersey's attorney general mandated annual training in racial bias for police officers. And last August, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formalized a requirement that police officers receive training in cultural diversity.
Police officer training came under nationwide scrutiny following the widely reported fatal police shootings and incidents in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; Staten Island, New York; and other cities in recent years. Training for civilians has not seemed as widespread. However, the New Jersey program would not be the first initiative to target civilian behavior.
In March, a committee in the Texas Senate approved a bill that would institute a program similar to the New Jersey proposal. In Texas, Senate Bill 30 would reportedly require police interaction training for high school students in grades nine through 12. According to The Texas Tribune, students in drivers education courses would also learn how to handle police during traffic stops. Neither the Texas bill nor the New Jersey bill have become law, but they could soon institute new approaches for combating police brutality.