Municipal Residency Requirements: The Common Disqualifier
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC) has announced the 2013 Law Enforcement Examination through their website. The announcement establishes a mandatory 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 September 4, 2013. For those who know family and friends who are registering for the 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 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 [September 4, 2013] and may be required to maintain continuous residency in that jurisdiction up to and including the date of appointment.” 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 applications, 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 2013 cycle, residency in the candidate’s jurisdiction of choice must be established by September 4, 2013, and 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. 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 and 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 from and the jurisdiction to which they moved. Residency preferences can be a great advantage or an unfortunate disqualifier. The key factor is ensuring that proper and steady residency is established before the September 4, 2013 closing date for applications and that 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 22 years. Further information may be obtained through his website at www.ccstest.com or email questions to [email protected].