Licenses would be an employment requirement for officers
CEDAR GROVE, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and lawmakers, including State Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), want to create a statewide police licensing program that would require all law enforcement officers to have valid, active licenses to be employed.
More than 40 states across the country use a form of decertification or licensing for law enforcement officers.
“I am honored to announce that we will be joining the overwhelming number of states who have established a police licensing program as a requirement for all law enforcement officers,” said Murphy on Wednesday. “These licenses should be held with honor as they show that these officers have been through rigorous training and have upheld what it means to be a law enforcement officer to the highest professional standards.”
The Police Training Commission (PTC), which establishes statewide law enforcement standards, voted unanimously in June 2020 to create a statewide police licensing program. The goal would be to build public trust in law enforcement by setting uniform professional standards to become, or continue to be, an active law enforcement officer in the state.
Greenstein, who serves as chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, is slated to be a leading lawmaker craft the program that would establish the licensure process and qualification standards for officers and applicants.
Requirements would include passing a psychological examination; maintaining post academy ongoing professional training requirements set by the PTC, and not engaging in conduct including social media posts or being an active member of a group that advocates for the violent overthrow of the government or for discrimination based on classes protected by the Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
“We have taken major steps over recent years – requiring the use of body-worn cameras, enhancing training, and increasing the diversity of our law enforcement agencies – to fortify the relationships between our communities and the law enforcement agencies that protect them. Police licensure is a commonsense next step,” said Greenstein. “Our communities will be better served – and our law enforcement agencies will be better equipped – with a framework for licensure in place.”
If enacted, the PTC would have the ability to take actions against the licenses of officers who act outside the professional standards or engage in illegal or improper conduct. The PTC, whose membership would grow to include four public members, would be authorized to suspend, revoke, place conditions upon, or deny licenses, after a hearing.
Law enforcement licenses would be subject to renewal three years after issuance.
The Governor noted that professional licensing is used in various other contexts, and occupations such as teachers, doctors, electricians, and counselors, among others, are subject to licensing requirements that provide the public with appropriate assurance of professionalism, qualification, and accountability.
“The statewide licensure of our law enforcement officers is a crucial next step in strengthening community-police relationships,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “This proposed legislation consolidates best practices from around the country to create a true national model—a licensing program that will ensure the continued excellence of our dedicated law enforcement professionals.”
Law enforcement agencies would be required to inform the PTC of any separation from employment of a licensed officer, and hiring agencies must request from the PTC the reasons why an applicant was separated from any prior law enforcement employment.
For instance, an employing unit must contact the PTC when an officer loses their license due to conviction of a crime, conviction of Domestic Violence, or conviction of offense for losing a firearm.
The proposal is supported by two of the state's largest labor unions representing law enforcement officers.
“This licensing program will provide transparency to the communities we serve and will hold our officers accountable in order to maintain a high professional standard and provide the due process they deserve. When our badges are tarnished by bad actors in our profession, it makes us all look bad," said Patrick Colligan, President, New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
"We believe this comprehensive licensing initiative will provide our membership with the prestige of holding a state licensed position like so many other professions, while incapacitating bad actors. The licensing program will also ensure the highest standards of training are attained and that certification are met in a uniform manner for police officer in our state," said Wayne Blanchard, President, State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey.