TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Law and Public Safety committee on Monday advanced Assemblyman Antwan McClellan’s bill that would expand the use of forfeited funds.
Civil asset forfeitures are property or money seized in connection with a suspected crime. Prosecutors must secure a criminal conviction to seize property valued at $10,000 or less, or $1,000 or less in cash. McClellan’s bill (A649) would allow law enforcement agencies to use those funds to promote community outreach, provide diversity training for law enforcement officers, and establish minority recruitment programs.
“New Jersey is the most diverse state in the nation. Minorities comprise more than 45% of its population,” McClellan (R-Cape May) said. “Using these funds to train our law enforcement officers to be culturally sensitive and approachable will improve policing and strengthen the relationships between officers and the communities they serve.”
Forfeited funds are disbursed to law enforcement agencies that contributed to the surveillance, investigation, arrest, or prosecution that resulted in the forfeiture. The use of those funds is limited by statute. For instance, agencies can use that money to defray costs of investigations or educate the public in crime prevention.
McClellan says using funds to provide diversity training and establish minority recruitment programs will help build trust and promote cooperation in communities. A recent media investigation found that New Jersey police departments are overwhelmingly white, even though whites only make up 54% of the state’s population.
“There is greater trust and credibility when police departments look like the communities they protect,” McClellan added.