There is now another path to becoming a police officer in Atlantic City.
Thanks to a state law Gov. Phil Murphy signed in February, municipalities can waive civil service exam requirements for some entry-level police officers. The law went into effect in August, but a municipality must pass an ordinance to formally implement the exception.
The Atlantic City Council did so unanimously at its Sept. 23 meeting.
The ordinance addresses the hiring of Class II or special law enforcement officers. These are officers who are appointed to the position for a year and perform similar duties as police officers, though they may not carry service weapons when off duty, per state law.
As a Class II officer, attending basic officer training at a school approved by the New Jersey Police Training Commission would serve as an alternative to the civil service exam that is required to be hired as an entry-level police officer. If there is an open tenure position, a Class II officer can be promoted to that role.
The new ordinance is seen by city officials as an opportunity to diversify the ranks in the police department by hiring more city residents, who will receive priority in hiring. Two-thirds of Atlantic City’s population is either Black or Latino. Candidates who are appointed Class II police officers are expected to live in Atlantic City.
“I think there’s such an added benefit for the community for having police officers who live in the town serve on the police force,” said Councilman Jesse Kurtz. “Officers are given the opportunity to really develop additional awareness and skills that deal with our town.”
Kurtz, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, said Atlantic City has hired police officers out of the corps of Class II officers through an interview process since the state took over Atlantic City government in 2016, calling the outcome “an unintended consequence” of the state takeover. Murphy extended the takeover by four years in June.
“According to our officer in charge, the acting chief, he actually found that this was a very good way to hire full time police officers,” Kurtz added.
Atlantic City’s ordinance formalizes its hiring practice of hiring full-time officers from the Class II ranks. Pemberton Township, Burlington County, and Vernon Township, Sussex County, recently adopted similar ordinances.
The ordinance, however, would not do away with the civil service exam requirement entirely.
“We’re still going to be able to call for a civil service test and hire off of that test,” Kurtz said, adding that the Class II appointments are a second path to hire officers. “They get all the training and then they start working as a Class II officer to see how they’ll respond to specific Atlantic City situations.”
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