New Jersey Proposes New Rules For Licensing Cops

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Police Training Commission (PTC) have proposed new police licensing rules governing the process by which the PTC would grant and renew licenses, while delineating the adverse actions that could be taken against an officer’s license, and under what circumstances.

The PTC has proposed revising its rules in accordance with the Police Licensure Act, the state law requiring all New Jersey law enforcement officers to obtain a license. These proposed new regulations would implement that law, which was supported by the Attorney General’s Office and signed by Governor Murphy in July 2022. It requires officers to hold valid, active licenses issued by the PTC in order to be employed as police officers. The objective is to bring about positive change to policing in New Jersey by making it a licensed profession, and thereby improving officer development and safety, while significantly strengthening trust between law enforcement officers and the public.

“These new rules are designed to provide the accountability and professionalism in law enforcement sought by New Jersey’s residents and lawmakers,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “They provide the Police Training Commission with the ability to deny, refuse to renew, or take other actions against an officer’s license if the officer has been found guilty of committing criminal or fraudulent acts, or behavior that would otherwise undermine public confidence in law enforcement. This represents a critical step forward, ensuring that those who are unfit or unable to serve as police officers can’t move from one agency to the next to evade a problematic disciplinary history.”

If approved, the draft regulations would take effect on January 1, 2024. Police officers already employed at that time the regulations take effect and who are past the probationary period of their careers would be issued initial licenses. Under the proposed rules, at least 90 days before that initial license is set to expire, officers would have to apply to the PTC to renew their licenses and provide supporting documentation. As part of that process, police chiefs employing the renewing officers would be required to certify to the PTC that each officer is of good moral character, meets the standards for eligibility to be a law enforcement officer, has completed required training, and has not engaged in any conduct or been the subject of any action that might lead the PTC to deny the renewal request.

After applications are filed, officers would continue to serve until the PTC decided on the pending applications. For the initial licensing period, expiration dates would be staggered in a manner to be determined by the PTC. After that, licenses would be in effect for three years before requiring renewal.

The draft regulations would also require that the Commission be notified of certain disciplinary actions and that the PTC could then take adverse action against a license, such as suspending or revoking it, imposing restrictions, or requiring the licensee to complete care, counseling, or treatment.

The proposal would require that chief law enforcement officers notify the PTC of any separation from employment with their agencies or any change to an officer’s employment status, pending criminal charge or the conviction of any crime, disorderly persons or driving while intoxicated offense. The PTC would also need to be alerted about the imposition of major disciplinary action, and of sustained findings that an officer used excessive force, was unfit for duty, or engaged in fraudulent or deceptive conduct.

Under the potential new rules, chief law enforcement officers must also inform the PTC of sustained findings that an officer mishandled or destroyed evidence or was biased against a particular class of people based on a protected characteristic, such as race, color, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, and if an officer was an active member of a group advocating for or promoting overthrowing the government.

Most of the employment-related actions for which notification is required are those for which public safety is at risk or for those that are the result of a sustained finding. Notification to the PTC would not necessarily result in an adverse licensure action.

The proposed new rules would also require a law enforcement agency to terminate, suspend, or refuse employment to any individual whose license has been denied, revoked, or suspended by the PTC.

The PTC is also proposing amendments to its regulations enabling its chairman to hire additional staff, with the PTC’s responsibilities expected to grow significantly due to police licensure.

The new regulations would establish a Licensing Committee, to be determined by the PTC, which would include at least one member of the public. Appeals to adverse license actions would be heard by a hearing officer who would make recommendations to the committee. That committee would have the authority to make recommendations to the full PTC regarding any adverse licensure action.

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