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Sweeney, Turner, Cruz-Perez Bill to Allow Exemption from the Civil Service Exam for Police Officers Advances

Trenton – In an effort to increase diversity in the ranks of law enforcement, the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senators Shirley Turner and Nilsa Cruz-Perez which would permit a municipality to exempt entry-level law enforcement officers from the Civil Service examination requirement.

“In the Senate hearings on increasing diversity in law enforcement, we heard time and time again how the Civil Service exam stands in the way of many minority candidates ultimately becoming officers,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Clearly, much more needs to be done to foster a police force that reflects the diversity of our state, but providing this exemption is a meaningful first step towards reaching that goal.”

The bill, S-3220, would permit a municipality to exempt any person from the Civil Service law enforcement exam, that is required for entry-level law enforcement officers, as long as they have completed the full Basic Course for Police Officers. The bill would also require that a municipal or county police department may hire a person under this exemption only upon adoption of a conflict of interest and nepotism policy.

“Essentially, everyone who aspires to work in law enforcement in some capacity must take the Civil Service law enforcement exam,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Unfortunately, passing the exam has become a barrier to entry, especially for aspiring officers of color. By allowing the exemption, there will be more opportunities for New Jersey residents interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement.”

Under current law, individuals looking to enter law enforcement must pass the Civil Service law enforcement examination prior to becoming eligible for employment.

“Most hiring for law enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission, which results in many towns adopting the ‘rule of three’ and only selecting from among the top three highest-scoring candidates,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “By providing an exemption for this requirement, more law enforcement students of color will be able to be considered for entry-level positions.”

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.