In a move intended to improve accountability and trust, New Jersey police officers will now be required to hold licenses.
gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Thursday instituting the requirement intended to keep officers accused of misconduct from obtaining law enforcement jobs in other agencies.
Licensing had already been required in 46 other states.
“We’re hardly breaking new ground here, but in fact are finally catching up with our fellow states,” Murphy said.
The new licensing requirements create a much stricter code of conduct for all police officers in the state. For example, officers may lose their licenses if they’re convicted of crimes, accused of domestic violence, or espouse support for hate groups on social media.
“It will be a strong signal to the community that transparency and accountability matter,” Murphy said. “And these are the foundational principles for rebuilding the bonds of trust between police and the residents they serve, especially — not only, but especially — in our Black and brown communities.”
Licensing requirements were a top priority for acting State Attorney General Matt Platkin, who took office in February.
“It’s landmark legislation that will significantly improve the trust between law enforcement and the communities that they’re sworn to represent,” Platkin said at the bill signing.
“It also ensures that those who fail to meet the essential standards of professionalism not only lose their jobs, but can’t simply obtain a new badge in a new department, in a new city, or even perhaps in a different state,” Platkin said.
The new law was hammered out by representatives of Platkin’s office, the state legislature and criminal justice advocates. At the signing, Amol Sinha, director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, congratulated the Murphy administration for getting the reform measure passed. But Sinha called for more reform.
“We cannot and should not aspire to merely catch up with Alabama and Florida,” Sinha said.
“New Jersey must lead on issues of police accountability.”
Advocates want to see more disciplinary records beyond those currently made public. Sinha also called for civilian review boards to be given subpoena power, and for an end to qualified immunity, which protects public officials and police officers from legal liability.
“These are not easy issues to tackle, but it’s necessary that we embrace this hard work because as we’re seeing today, real progress is achievable when there is political will and stakeholders willing to collaborate,” Sinha said.