The following article is published in the June 2016 Edition of the NJCOPS Magazine:
Residency Requirements and NJ Entry-Level Testing
by Dr. David A. Paprota, Ed.D.
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC) will announce the 2016 Law Enforcement Examination (LEE) through their website on July 1, 2016. The announcement will establish an online application process available for those who aspire to become a municipal police officer, county police officer, sheriff’s officer, county correction officer, or any one of five other titled law enforcement positions. The closing date for applications is set as August 31, 2016. For those who intend to register for the upcoming LEE exam, there are some common yet critical errors in filing the application that may have long-lasting implications if not handled properly prior to and after the closing date of the exam announcement.
In the State of New Jersey, nearly all municipalities regulated by the NJCSC (civil service) have residency preferences for hiring police officers. New Jersey state law, the NJCSC administrative code (rules), and local ordinances establish residency restrictions that often leave some very deserving and qualified candidates out of the running for the limited number of municipal police officer positions available. The laws and associated rules currently state, “applicants must meet the residency requirements of the appointing jurisdiction as of the closing date for applications [August 31, 2016] and may be required to maintain continuous residency in that jurisdiction up to and including the date of appointment” [emphasis added]. This restriction often catches many prospective candidates by surprise and effectively leaves them ineligible for a municipal police officer position. Based on the rule, the residence listed by the candidate on the application is the jurisdiction in which the candidate is eligible for consideration for appointment as a municipal police officer. If the candidate moves to another jurisdiction after the closing date of the LEE application, he or she is rendered ineligible for appointment in both jurisdictions based on the aforementioned rule.
The key consideration with the residency preference laws and rules is the “closing date” of the examination. For the 2016 cycle, residency in the candidate’s jurisdiction of choice must be established by August 31, 2016, and the specific address of that residence must be listed on the application. The municipal jurisdiction listed with the NJCSC as of the closing date of the announcement will determine the candidate’s municipal eligibility until the next LEE testing cycle which will not occur for at least two years (more likely three years). This is one of the many unfortunate errors I have seen law enforcement candidates make when seeking appointment to a NJCSC regulated municipal police department. The worst and very common mistake occurs when a candidate applies for the test, takes the test, receives an exceptional score in the mail, then, on the advice of a friend in law enforcement, moves into a municipal jurisdiction that is expected to hire. Those candidates come to find they have effectively eliminated themselves from consideration in both the jurisdiction they moved away from and the jurisdiction to which they have moved. Residency preferences can be a great advantage or an unfortunate disqualifier.
The New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. 4A) requires that each civil service municipality file their local residency preference ordinance or resolution with the NJCSC on an annual basis. I know that is something that does not occur as required, but is a necessary step if a municipality is intent upon eliminating candidates for lack of residency. The NJCSC commonly allows municipalities to submit the required copy of the ordinance or resolution with the return of hiring certification along with the elimination proofs for those candidates whom they are intent upon removing from the hiring process. If a candidate is considering moving into a civil service jurisdiction prior to the closing date (August 31st) for this year’s LEE application, it is advisable that the candidate research the specific residency ordinance or resolution for that jurisdiction to identify the specific residency requirements. Some jurisdictions have time periods (e.g., 1 year) prior to the application in which continuous residency must have already been established. The key factor is ensuring that proper and steady residency is established before the August 31, 2016 closing date for applications and that the chosen residency is properly on record with the NJCSC before the closing date.
Dr. David A. Paprota is the Chief of Police in Lacey Township and the Executive Director of Critical Concepts & Strategies – CCS, an entry-level exam preparation company which focuses on preparing candidates for the NJCSC (Entry Level) Law Enforcement Examination (LEE). Dr. Paprota has trained over 15,000 candidates for their respective NJCSC exams over the past 24 years. Further information may be obtained through his website at www.ccstest.com or email questions to [email protected].