In an unusual twist, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC) has changed the application process for the 2022 NJ LEE cycle. Instead of candidates submitting a single application and choosing title areas (e.g., municipal police officer, sheriff’s officer, county correctional police officer, etc.), candidates must now submit a separate application for each individual agency for which they want to be considered. Aside from the obvious additional expense involved, this process comes with several new considerations and possible problems for candidates.
The NJCSC website explains this new process as follows:
In order to be considered for employment in an entry-level law enforcement position, applicants must submit individual applications for each jurisdiction in which they are interested in working. Applicants who meet the eligibility requirements will then be scheduled for and must pass a written exam called the Law Enforcement Examination (LEE). Titles to be included in the 2022 LEE announcement/testing cycle are posted by jurisdiction (i.e., individual municipalities, counties, or state departments). Candidates who pass the exam will be placed on the employment list for each jurisdiction for which they applied [emphasis added]. Applications can be found for each title at: https://info.csc.state.nj.us/Vats/JobView.aspx. CSC is currently accepting LEE applications between January 3, 2022 and February 28, 2022. The LEE is tentatively scheduled to be administered in Spring 2022.
The above information without further explanation is going to cause many applicants to harm their legitimate chances to get hired after the testing is completed. The specific statement by the NJCSC, “Candidates who pass the exam will be placed on the employment list for each jurisdiction for which they applied” is very misleading. The key factor in applying for any department for the upcoming NJ LEE is the specific “residency preference” listed for the department under the “Open to Residents of” heading on each individual announcement. The “residency preference” provided by a hiring agency must be considered against the applicant’s address when submitting the formal online NJCSC application for the NJ LEE.
The vast majority of agencies never get past their primary hiring list during the life of the list. The primary list comes from the jurisdictional area listed as (1) under “Open to Residents of” heading at the top of each individual announcement. Therefore, if the announcement does not list the candidate’s municipality (or county) as (1) under the “Open to Residence of” section, that candidate will not be on the agency’s primary hiring list.
As an example, I’ll use the Harrison PD announcement in comparison to the Hoboken PD announcement with respect to residency preference (see below).
You can see that the Hoboken Police Department has “Hoboken City” listed as (1) which means that their primary list from which they will hire will only include residents of Hoboken who apply for Hoboken via the NJCSC online process. Hoboken will only go to (2) Hudson County if they exhaust the primary list (possible but not likely). Therefore, if you live in Harrison, for instance, and you only submit an online application with the NJCSC for Hoboken for the 2022 NJ LEE cycle, you may not ever show up on a hiring list during the life of the lists this cycle. Meanwhile, a Hoboken resident should most certainly submit an application for Hoboken, as he or she will appear on the primary list for hiring.
Now, looking at the listing for Harrison PD (below), you can see that Harrison PD has “Hudson County and Essex County” listed as (1) which means their primary list will consist of residents of both Hudson and Essex Counties who apply specifically for Harrison PD. It is advisable that candidates who live in either Hudson County or Essex County apply for Harrison as well as any other agencies the candidate has interest.
The Risk of Not Properly Applying
After working with candidates for the past 30 years, I have an understanding of the common misconceptions and tendencies that candidates have when applying for the NJ LEE. No shortage of candidates look to a nearby agency (not their home town) and focus their efforts on that agency when taking the NJ LEE. The problem is (as seen above) that the candidate likely falls outside the residency preference for their desired neighboring agency. The application process being used this cycle presents a special problem. If candidates live in a civil service jurisdiction (e.g., Weehawken) yet choose to not apply for their home town and instead apply to a neighboring jurisdiction (e.g., Hoboken), he or she may never appear on a hiring list.
It is important for candidates to look at the “Open to Residents of” category on each announcement and consider the jurisdictional area listed as (1) against the candidate’s personal residency. This will give the candidate the best chance in this civil service cycle. The jurisdictional area listed as (2) should also be considered for those departments that may exhaust their primary local list.
The NJCSC does make reference to the Residency Requirement in the “Fact Sheet” as follows:
Applicants are required to complete the residency portion of the application. Please note that your residency may be different from your mailing address. Residency information will be used to place your name in the appropriate tier for municipal and/or county eligible lists. You must be a legal resident of the jurisdiction you list as your residency as of the announcement closing date, and as of the appointment date for some jurisdictions. Please check with the municipality or county for their residency requirement.
On a Positive Note
It is important to note that some jurisdictions do sometimes exhaust the local lists and go to a county list. If you feel that a town or city may not have enough qualified applicants applying during this NJ LEE cycle, and you fall under the jurisdictional area listed as (2), then it may be worth submitting an application for that department as well. Most local departments have the county-wide list as (2) on their announcement. If they exhaust their local list, then the non-resident candidate will be on the county list to be considered.
On a positive note, the county lists for individual departments will be smaller than in the past under the new system. This is likely, because the county-wide lists will only have those non-resident applicants on them who specifically applied for the individual department in the NJCSC system.
Using Newark PD as an example, when Newark exhausts the local list of Newark residents, they will go to the Essex County list. But, this cycle, only those non-residents who applied specifically for Newark will be on the county-wide list. Considering the new process, the county list for Newark will only be a fraction of the list in previous cycles. In the past, a vast majority of Essex County NJ LEE applicants were placed on the county-wide list for Newark. Only those Essex County residents who specifically apply to Newark will be included on the county list this cycle.
County and State Titles
Residency preference for county titles simply relates to whether the candidate lives within the specific county. County lists are commonly larger than local lists. It is recommended that applicants apply to the county positions (sheriffs and corrections) as well before the closing date of 2/28/22. It should also be noted that most county agencies open up to multiple neighboring counties after exhausting their own county lists. Candidates should check the county announcements for their general area.
With respect to State titles, it is advisable to apply for any position that you may consider working. Clearly, it is a larger pool of candidates than seen on county and local lists. Everyone in the state is eligible (with respect to residency) for each title. But, now that candidates must apply individually for each department, there will likely be less people on most state lists.
Changing Residency After the Closing Date of Applications
A fatal error that some candidates make after applying for the NJ LEE is moving to a different jurisdiction after the closing date of applications (this cycle 2/28/22). Unfortunately, a candidate’s residency jurisdiction is locked in for the life of the lists. For instance, if a candidate lives in Hoboken (Hudson County) when applying and then later moves to Hackensack (Bergen County), that candidate likely rendered him- or herself ineligible for both Hoboken PD and Hudson County positions while also not being eligible for Hackensack PD. Again, residency preference is established during the application period. In the example provided, that applicant would still be eligible for the State titles to which he or she applied since he or she would still be a resident of NJ after the move. Likewise, if the candidate remained within Hudson County upon moving, he or she would still be eligible for the Hudson County positions to which he or she applied. Some candidates mistakenly think they can move into another civil jurisdiction during the life of the lists without realizing they must wait to the next cycle to qualify for the residency preference for the new location.
Living in a Non-Civil Service Local Jurisdiction
Many NJ LEE candidates live in a municipality that is not a civil service jurisdiction. In that case, the candidate must apply based on their county and state residency. Obviously, the county and state titles are in play, but even some local municipalities may also be considered. In some counties, certain municipal agencies exhaust their local lists. For instance, a resident of Cedar Grove (non-civil service) in Essex County should consider applying (via NJCSC) to Newark, Irvington, East Orange, and Orange as a county resident. Although Cedar Grove is a non-civil service jurisdiction, those other cities will likely exhaust their local lists and need to hire from the county list. Remember, you must apply to the individual departments to ever be considered. Essex county was used as an example, since they have the most local towns/cities that end up drawing from the county list. There are far fewer in the remainder of the State of New Jersey.
Candidates for the 2022 NJ LEE cycle must give serious time and consideration as to which agencies they apply. Candidates are encouraged to apply for several different departments and across local, county, and state titles. You must apply in order to be on a list. That being said, it is important to consider the residency preferences listed to properly evaluate the likelihood of being considered by a particular agency. Too many candidates have achieved exceptional scores in the past only to find out they are not on the primary list for departments based on their residency at the time they applied. This is even more likely this cycle with the new requirement to apply individually to departments.
The NJCSC does have much of the above information available across several different documents and webpages online, but it is not clear for most candidates. Hopefully, this article provides sufficient information for candidates to make informed decisions regarding the all important NJ LEE application.
Chief David A. Paprota, Ed.D. (Ret.)
CCS Test Prep®
NJCSC Fact Sheet: https://info.csc.state.nj.us/Vats/PdfForms/2022Law.pdf
NJCSC website: https://www.state.nj.us/csc/seekers/jobs/safety/ (Public Safety Overview)