New Jersey lawmakers introduce legislation to create law enforcement licensure program

A close-up of a New Jersey State Police Officer's uniform

A close-up of a New Jersey State Police Officer's uniform. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to carry a license, Gov. Phil Murphy and acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced Wednesday.

If passed, the state would join 44 other states that already have a licensing or decertification program.

“This license and all it will represent will lift up the overwhelming majority of women and men working honestly and diligently to keep our communities safe. It will send a strong message that our cops and correction officers are living up to their oaths, both in word and in deed,” Murphy said. “This is a significant step forward for transparency and accountability and to rebuilding the bonds of trust between police and residents, especially, not only, but especially in Black and brown communities.”

The measure would require police officers to undergo a psychological exam and participate in various training to obtain and maintain a license. The license also would be subject to renewal three years after an officer receives it.

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If a police officer has been reported for misconduct, the state would have the authority to suspend or rescind their license after a hearing.

“The process in which an officer’s license is revoked is similar in spirit to those in which lawyers, doctors, or even a cosmetologists license would, through an unbiased and clear process, following acts of misconduct, giving us yet another tool to weed out bad actors that make an incredibly difficult job even harder for the rest,” said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, who plans to sponsor the bill.

“Requiring officers to build a portfolio of continuous professional development to demonstrate their ongoing and up-to-date professional competence is a crucial step toward delivering safe communities and a fair justice system for all New Jerseyans.”

In June 2020, the Police Training Commission voted to create a statewide police licensing program. The commission establishes statewide law enforcement standards. Under the bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to inform the PTC when a police officer loses their license. The bill’s proponents say this would create a mechanism for law enforcement agencies to make thorough and effective hiring decisions.

Reva Foster, president of the N.J. Black Issues Convention, called the legislation long overdue.

“We go to the doctors, we call upon lawyers to help us, every day we send our children to teachers, we go to cosmetologists and those that do our nails — all of them already have licenses to make sure that they’re doing their minimum trained jobs to the satisfaction of that license,” she said. “They also realize that there are definitions associated with their license to deal with misconduct, and these misconducts are documented and reviewed and looked at to determine how they are doing against that license.”

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