Gov. Phil Murphy wants all law enforcement officials in New Jersey to carry licenses that need to be renewed every three years and could be revoked for misconduct.

During a press conference outside the Essex County Police Academy, Murphy proposed legislation that would establish a licensing program through the Police Training Commission and set uniform standards across the state’s more than 500 law enforcement agencies.

“These licenses should be held with honor as they show that these officers have been through rigorous training and have upheld what it means to be a law enforcement officer to the highest professional standards,” Murphy said.

He noted that police officers are one of the few remaining skilled professions in the state that don’t require licenses, beyond the requirements needed to finish the police academy. Teachers, doctors, electricians and lawyers all need to be certified or licensed to work in New Jersey.

'Rebuilding trust'

The legislation, which has yet to be formally introduced in the state Legislature, comes as police departments across the country are facing calls for reform following the murder of George Floyd. Murphy said requiring police to be licensed will go a long way to rebuilding trust.

These licenses should be held with honor as they show that these officers have been through rigorous training and have upheld what it means to be a law enforcement officer

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

“It will send a strong message that our cops and correction officers are living up to their oaths both in word and in deed,” Murphy said during the press conference Wednesday. “This is a significant step forward for transparency and accountability and to rebuild the bonds of trust between police and residents especially in Black and brown communities.”

Under the measure, officers would need to pass a psychological exam, stay up-to-date with training and abide by the same set of standards, rather than the patchwork of requirements across local and county agencies. The Police Training Commission, which is responsible for setting up law enforcement rules, would also have the power to revoke, suspend or place conditions on an officer’s license for actions such as being affiliated with a known hate group or being convicted of a crime.

'A good thing'

Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said officials worked for two years to establish a framework for the licensing program. He said holding all officers to the same standards of professionalism will “ lift that stigma that is placed on them because of the acts and indiscretions of a small few.”

He said requiring officers to carry licenses will also ensure that officers who are found guilty of misconduct “not only lose their right to have that privilege of wearing a badge but they’re also unable to obtain a new badge in a new town or, in some cases, in another state.”

More than 40 other states require police to be certified or licensed, the governor’s office said. In New York City, the NYPD need to be certified.

Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, also stood by the proposed legislation.

“When one of those members tarnishes the badge, we are all tarnished and it takes a long time to get over that,” he said, calling the proposed legislation a collaborative effort. “This really is nothing to be feared and it will be a good thing for law enforcement going forward.”