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New law requires police officers to be licensed to work in New Jersey

Under the terms of legislation that has been signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, all law enforcement officers will be required to hold a valid, active license issued by the Police Training Commission (PTC) in order to be employed as officers in New Jersey.

S-2742/A-4194 establishes a police licensing program for all New Jersey law enforcement officers, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.

Murphy proposed the legislation in May and the bill quickly moved through both the Senate and Assembly. New Jersey will become the 47th state to establish a police licensing program, according to the press release.

“I thank my legislative partners for acting quickly on passing this bill and sending it to my desk to sign. This police licensing program will, formally and finally, recognize all who serve in law enforcement in our state as the specially trained and highly skilled professionals they are,” Murphy said.

“Officers holding these licenses will be proven professionals who fulfill their duties with honesty and integrity, helping law enforcement strengthen and rebuild the bonds of trust between police and residents in the communities they serve, especially in our black and brown communities,” he said.

“This landmark legislation will have real and transformative impact on policing in New Jersey and will serve to significantly improve trust between law enforcement and the public they are sworn to protect,” Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.

“One of the strongest commitments of the Murphy Administration has been to ensure the continued excellence and success of New Jersey’s law enforcement officers, while promoting a culture statewide of professionalism, transparency and accountability,” he said.

“The licensing of law enforcement officers throughout New Jersey provides an additional layer of professionalism and accountability to the men and women who take an oath to serve and protect the citizens of this great state,” said Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

“I applaud the efforts of Gov. Murphy and Acting Attorney General Platkin, who have worked tirelessly with the members of the Police Training Commission to enact a statewide licensing program that strengthens transparency and public trust,” he said.

The PTC, which establishes statewide law enforcement standards, voted unanimously in June 2020 to create a statewide police licensing program, recognizing that more than 40 states across the country use a form of decertification or licensing for law enforcement officers, according to the press release.

In an effort to help build public trust in law enforcement, the police licensing program will require all law enforcement officers to meet certain uniform professional standards to become, or continue to be, an active law enforcement officer in the state.

To better protect the health, safety and welfare of all citizens, the legislation would grant the PTC the ability and responsibility to monitor and take appropriate actions against the license of any law enforcement officer who acts outside the bounds of professional standards or engages in illegal or improper conduct, according to the press release.

Some of the conduct resulting in the revocation or non-issuance of a license includes:

• Conviction of any crime in New Jersey, or any other state, territory, country, or of the United States;

• Conviction of an act of domestic violence;

• Conviction of any offense that would preclude an officer from carrying a firearm;

• Two or more motor vehicle offenses for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or two or more motor vehicle offenses for reckless driving;

• 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;

• Conduct or behavior in the officer’s personal or professional life such as making statements, posting, sharing or commenting in support of any posting, on social media, or otherwise, that demonstrates, espouses, advocates or supports discrimination or violence against, or hatred or bias toward individuals or groups based on race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other protected characteristic under the Law Against Discrimination.

Officers will be subject to renew their license three years after issuance.

Michael C. Bauer serves as president of the Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association. In response to Newspaper Media Group’s request for a comment about the new law, Bauer said, “The licensing law will be implemented by the Police Training Commission (PTC). Once the licensing begins we, as chiefs, will assist the PTC with information regarding our officers to complete the licensing.

“We are being told the PTC is developing the process and it won’t be ready for implementation for approximately 18 months. …  There are still some questions that are unanswered, but we will be getting clarification in the near future as the process moves along. There has not been much discussion among our officers in reference to the licensing,” said Bauer, who is the police chief in Manasquan.

“The State Troopers Fraternal Association has continually been willing to partner with the Governor and members of the Legislature in producing common sense police reform legislation.” said Wayne Blanchard, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association.

“This historic legislation creating a police licensing program in New Jersey is no exception.  This is yet another piece of legislation that we have all worked on together to enhance transparency and promote public trust and confidence in our troopers and all law enforcement.

“This bill enhances the concept of producing a more professional and better trained police officer while incapacitating bad actors for which we have no tolerance,” Blanchard said.

“The New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police which represents over 14,000 of New Jersey’s Finest supports Gov. Murphy’s initiatives to further enhance professionalism within the law enforcement community in New Jersey,” said Robert Gries, executive vice president, NJFOP.

“We look forward to supporting and working with the Governor’s Office on this and all matters that affect and improve the ability of law enforcement to perform their important work,” he said.

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, according to the press release from Murphy’s office.

Newspaper Media Group Managing Editor Mark Rosman contributed to this article.

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