TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey has made considerable progress in complying with a federal consent decree aimed at ending racial profiling by state police, but there is still room for improvement, according to a report released Friday.
Consent searches by troopers have declined over the past six months and searches were more likely to uncover illegal contraband, said the report released by the state attorney general's office.
Consent searches, which critics say have been abused by police and conducted disproportionally on minorities, are required when troopers suspect wrongdoing but don't have probable cause. Absent that, troopers must get written permission from motorists before they can conduct a search.
Consent searches dropped sharply in the six months ending May 31, from 59 in the previous sixth-month period to 20 in the most recent period.
The report said the percentage of consent searches that result in the discovery of contraband has improved.
But monitors said that more work is needed in training new troopers and in implementing a computer monitoring system that tracks the conduct of supervisors and individual troopers during traffic stops.
The Department of Law and Public Safety said in a statement that the system will be ready for testing in September.
"This report indicates that the state police has made major progress in a number of important areas," Attorney General David Samson said.
New Jersey agreed to federal monitoring in December 1999, more than a year after two troopers fired on a van carrying four unarmed minority men on the turnpike, wounding three.
The incident escalated the controversy over allegations of racial profiling. In April 1999, state authorities admitted that troopers had engaged in racial profiling.