How to Become a Police Officer in NJ

Are you interested to know how to become a police officer in NJ? The process described in the following article outlines the basic details from the first moments of searching for a police department to when the candidate becomes a fully authorized officer of the law, sworn to serve and to protect.

Moreover, it will explore some of the alternative departments interested in hiring law enforcement agents and the programs available, duties and more.

Minimum Requirements to Become a Police Officer in New Jersey

  1. A candidate should have a bachelors degree or have a minimum of 90 credits.
  2. Should complete their degree on a specified date prior  to written exams.
  3. OR must have an associate’s degree or 60 college credits plus at least 24 months of military service or satisfactory employment.
  4. OR 30 college credits or 24 months of active duty military service with an honorable discharge.
  5. Must be at least 21 years old and must not be 35 years old prior to graduation.
  6. Must be a citizen of the United States.
  7. Must have a valid driver’s license when the background investigations begin.
Important note: All college degree or credits should be from an accredited college or university.

To summarize, the five methods to become a NJ police officer include:

  • Via the Civil Service tests
  • Via the Chief’s Agency track
  • Via the Alternative Route programs (currently suspended)
  • Via the Auxiliary Police Officer training
  • Via Special Officer training

However, first things first, let’s see the classical way of making it into the Police Academy and, consequentially, the ranks of the New Jersey police force.

The Civil Service Enrollment

The Civil Service department of the state of New Jersey, which was also referred to as the Department of Personnel for a while, is the main authority in charge of selecting the new police academy cadets.

To put it simply, over 50 percent of the law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey hired or declined their applicants based on the tests administered by this authority.

Aspiring cadets file their applications to the New Jersey Civil Service department in January, which is the same date when the results of the tests are displayed. The actual testing sessions take place during the spring.

It is important to note that the competition in NJ for a spot in one of the police departments is quite steep and candidates should ensure they are ready to achieve the highest performance on the date of the examination.

As it can be easily guessed, the police departments will examine the performance of the candidates via these tests and take their pick for probationary officers, pending graduation from the academy.

Physical Qualification Test

This examination is divided into four separate events wherein the trainee will have to score at least 1 point on each event, if they fail to do so they’ll fail this test.

  • Complete the 75 yard pursuit run in 19.5 seconds or less
  • At least 18 to 19 push ups
  • At least 21-22 Sit ups
  • Complete 1.5 mile run in 14 minutes and 26 seconds or under

The Chief’s Agency Track

Some law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey do not select candidates based on the expertise of the Civil Service, but rather prefer to administer their own tests.

The list of law enforcement agencies in this category includes, but is not restricted to:

  • County Sheriff’s Department
  • Municipal Office Department
  • State Troopers
  • Campus Police
  • State Rangers
  • Division of Criminal Justice

However, the tests administered by the aforementioned agencies are not easier (in some cases, they prove to be more difficult than the ones issued by the Civil Service).

There is an additional catch, these agencies do not have a scheduled examination date, but rather perform the tests whenever they lack personnel in a certain department and are aiming to hire.

The Alternative Route

It is necessary to mention that the Alternative Route program has not been eliminated completely by the NJ authorities, but it is on hiatus until December 31, 2012. While the program may or may not be reinstated in NJ, this guide should mention its basic characteristics.

The Alternative Route means a candidate may choose to apply to one of the 9 available Police Academies in the state, even though he has not been pre-employed by a law enforcement agency. However, choosing to do so implies understanding that, upon graduation, there is no guarantee of employment. At the same time, the tuition and training comes from the applicant’s own pocket.

On the bright side, the training received is equally valid and it maximizes the chances of employment.

The Auxiliary Police

To be completely fair, the authority of an auxiliary law enforcement agent is not exactly one of a certified officer, given that these individuals do not receive an education certified by the authorities. The auxiliary officers are basically volunteers that attend formal training and their help is enlisted whenever the available force is not able to handle the situation on its own, such as during events or major traffic jams.

However, the training obtained by joining the auxiliary police could prove invaluable and the connections made with certified officers of the force can help candidates join and graduate from the Academy.

Special Officers

There are two types of special officers in the NJ force and their attributions as well as their authority vary substantially. The type I special officers have undergone a limited number of training hours, generally throughout the course of several weeks.

Consequentially, their duties are rather basic (traffic violations, first aid or parking) as is their authority as well (they are not permitted to carry or use firearms).

On the other hand, the type II special officers have extensive training (generally throughout the course of several months within a certain police department) and their authority is equal to that of a certified police officer (exclusively while on duty).

For more information on How to Become a Police Officer in NJ, please call the Division of State Police Selection Process Unit at 609.882.2000, extension 2853 and 2951 or visit the New Jersey State Police website.

Click here to check out the various police officer jobs in New Jersey.

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