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North Bergen makes it easier to hire entry-level law enforcement

The adopted ordinance will phase in changes permitted under a new state law

Mayor Nicholas Sacco swears in four new police officers in late January.

North Bergen has made it easier to become a police officer.

The North Bergen Board of Commissioners has adopted an ordinance amending the hiring practices for entry-level law enforcement officers. The board voted unanimously to do so at its Feb. 9 meeting.

According to the ordinance, the hiring practices of the township are governed by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission and the New Jersey Administrative Code. On Feb. 4, 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law amending the Civil Service Act to permit municipalities to hire police officers who have not taken the civil service law enforcement examination, but are otherwise qualified.

New hiring practices for entry-level officers

“That allowed towns to hire police officers, even if they hadn’t taken the civil service exam, provided they take a course that is known as the full Basic Police Course for Police Officers,” Township Counsel Tom Kobin previously said regarding the ordinance.

Under the new state law, which took effect in August of 2021, hiring authorities will be permitted to appoint candidates who have successfully completed the full Basic Police Course at a school approved and authorized by the New Jersey Police Training Commission. According to Kobin, if someone had taken that course, the township can hire them even though they didn’t take the civil service exam.

On Jan. 18, 2022, the legislature amended the law, and opened it up to include other positions such as sheriff’s officers, corrections officers, county police, and other law enforcement, Kobin said. Under the amended law, Kobin said that the township can also hire officers prior to them taking the full Basic Police Course.

These officers will be temporary employees standing for the force with pay. Then, when they complete the course, if they meet all other requirements, the township can convert them to a permanent employee. However, the amended law doesn’t kick in until later in the year. So the ordinance will phase in when it becomes effective, according to Kobin.

‘More reflective of the community’

Mayor Nicholas Sacco said the ordinance aims to help the police department better represent residents.

“The genesis of the law is to make the force more reflective of the community,” Sacco said at a commissioners meeting in January.

According to Sacco, the township already has a residency requirement for the police force. However, North Bergen is looking to bring more residents onto the force “without having to go through the strenuous test,” he said, adding that it would be on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re pretty diverse as it is right now,” Sacco said. “This doesn’t hurt us, it helps us.”

“I think it’ll help us tremendously,” Police Chief Peter Fasilis added.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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