Police chiefs say new licensing law adds accountability for law enforcement, by Thomas Dellane | Columnists

Thomas Dellane For the press

The time has finally come for New Jersey police officers to be licensed in the same way as other professions.

When Governor Phil Murphy signed the law (S2742/A4194) on July 21 requiring licensing through the state’s Police Training Commission (PTC), he further assured that the Garden State can continue to lead the country in progressive policing policies designed to improve the agency and the officer. responsibility.

For many years, New Jersey was one of the few states that did not have a uniform set of standards to support the professional development of every law enforcement officer. The state has now taken the next natural step to establish the important official license, the 47th state to establish such a program.

The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP) – one of the state’s premier law enforcement organizations since 1912 and of which I am president – provides our members with ongoing opportunities apply “best practices” in leadership, management and operational practices. The goal: to build community engagement, trust and confidence. We believe that obtaining a permit is another step towards achieving this goal.

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The PTC, which sets statewide law enforcement standards, voted unanimously in June 2020 to create this program, recognizing that more than 40 states use some form of decertification or license. for law enforcement officers. This new law now gives the PTC the responsibility to monitor and possibly revoke the licenses of any agent who fails to meet established professional standards.

I believe this police licensing program applies equally to small and large agencies, with clear and unambiguous standards, an element of due process that enforces practical measures to encumber licenses where appropriate, and offers transparency in public notice.

Also, by setting professional standards, there can be a more consistent application of discipline. Unlike doctors, lawyers, electricians or other regulated professions, the state did not previously have the ability to track past disciplinary actions against law enforcement. Since police disciplinary action is often handled locally, behind closed doors in individual police departments, an underperforming officer could ultimately find employment elsewhere in the country with what seems like a clean slate.

Not anymore, in New Jersey.

Importantly, there is still no national governing body that monitors and enforces continuing education requirements or certification standards for police officers. New Jersey voters might also be surprised to learn that there are no national standards for training or certification, or a national database to track officer transgressions.

Despite the fact that police anywhere in the United States can bear arms and have broad powers to make arrests, there has never been a consistent regulatory approach, despite uneven calls for a nationwide licensing requirement.

Consequently, most states have Peace Officer Standards and Training Boards (POSTs) or similar agencies, with a range of authorities and functions. Under this new New Jersey law, bad cops can be decertified at the state level, rather than relying on malpractice to be dealt with locally.

NJSACOP is pleased that this new law will help bring New Jersey law enforcement to the highest level of professionalism through licensing. We are now calling for established standards and a due process component that is fair, equitable and transparent to the public.

NJSACOP also advocates for ongoing state audits for these licenses, ensuring that corners are not being cut at any New Jersey police department.

I’m glad that every “fired” police officer in New Jersey must meet a universal code of conduct, related to areas such as excessive force, criminal convictions, or dishonesty in the line of duty. If this code has not been followed, the state finally has a licensing authority that can sanction, suspend or fire the agent, with information shared nationally.

This licensing law – with real, transformative impact – will create better officers, better policing and greater transparency by further emphasizing the commitment to protect and serve.

Thomas Dellane, chief of the Stafford Township Police Department, is president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.

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