By SP Sullivan
TRENTON, NJ — State officials released sweeping new guidelines Thursday on how New Jersey police departments should treat pregnant and nursing officers, signaling an effort to recruit more women into the police force.
The new guidelines are “designed to help make policing a more attractive career path for women,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin told NJ Advance Media.
Last year, only 10% of state police officers were women, according to state data, even though they make up half the population. A bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2020 requires state and local law enforcement to “reflect the diverse population of the community the agency is charged with protecting.”
“It’s a profession that invites women to join it,” Platkin said in an interview. “We want them to feel like it’s a profession they can join and stay in throughout their careers.”
The attorney general’s office said the new guidelines were “intended to promote uniformity in the treatment of pregnant officers, remove some barriers to career success for female officers, and ultimately improve rank diversity.” of New Jersey officers.
Megan Flanagan, a detective with the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office and president of the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement, said the proposal would “help recruit qualified women to the profession of law enforcement as well as retain them throughout throughout their careers”. careers.”
The new rules provide new opportunities for female cops, but raise questions about how they will be treated by base officers while recovering from pregnancy or nursing a child.
“Those who are pregnant, regardless of occupation, deserve reasonable accommodations in the workplace during pregnancy and after having recently given birth,” Murphy said in a statement. “These guidelines will help our law enforcement agencies attract and retain female police officers who may not have considered it possible to move up the police ranks safely and comfortably while experiencing the joys of becoming or being a new parent.”
There’s a long history in New Jersey of female cops alleging discrimination.
Court records and news clippings show that women in New Jersey’s police departments have long faced barriers. In 2016, an Ocean Township cop who claimed he was denied accommodation provided to injured officers received a payment of $51,000. In 2020 a hillside cop complaint lodged alleging discrimination during her pregnancy. And last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Ocean Township Police Department’s policy regarding pregnant cops broke the law.
Until recently, pregnant policewomen faced a patchwork of policies that could help or hinder their careers.
The new rules “apply various federal and state laws regarding the treatment of pregnant and nursing employees to the context of law enforcement, regarding uniform and firearms accommodations, among others,” according to a statement from the attorney general. acting
The changes are widely supported by Murphy, the state’s major police unions, the state’s ACLU, the Association of Chiefs of Police and the New Jersey National Organization of Women.