TRENTON – As Shore resorts seek to augment their police forces with special officers for the busy summer season, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued guidance to law enforcement on a new expedited process that will allow special law enforcement officers who work in New Jersey’s schools to be re-designated to perform general law enforcement duties as seasonal law enforcement officers in other municipalities.
The guidance is designed to help municipalities address law enforcement staffing issues caused by COVID-19, especially in those municipalities that see an influx of visitors during the summer months. This action is the latest step taken by Attorney General Grewal and the Police Training Commission (PTC), which establishes statewide standards for police officers, to ease the burden on local law enforcement agencies during the pandemic.
“We knew law enforcement resources would be stretched to the limit by this pandemic, not only because of officers being ill or quarantined, but because of the many new responsibilities imposed by this unprecedented emergency,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Nonetheless, police across New Jersey have worked together, as they always do, to meet the challenges, and we are doing all that we can do at the state level to support their heroic efforts. I’m confident that the measures we have announced to address manpower issues – along with the recent re-opening of the police academies – will give our Shore communities the officers they need to ensure a safe and family-friendly summer season.”
State law allows municipalities to hire “special law enforcement officers” (SLEO), who can perform certain functions for a police department but lack the full authorities of a typical law enforcement officer. The law establishes three categories: SLEO I officers, who handle routine traffic details, spectator control, and similar duties; SLEO II officers, who have full arrest authority but generally work on a part-time or seasonal basis; and SLEO III officers, who provide security at schools.
Generally speaking, law enforcement agencies must obtain approval from the PTC to transfer an officer from one category of SLEO to another. Earlier this year, the PTC created a program to streamline the transfer process, so long as the SLEO remained working in the same town. Today’s guidance now makes it easier for SLEOs to transfer between municipalities as well, making it easier to deploy officers to the communities that need them most.
The Guidance to Law Enforcement issued today by the Attorney General is posted at this link:
On March 16, AG Grewal issued guidance to law enforcement that encouraged the use of mutual aid agreements and SLEO IIs to address officer shortages caused by the pandemic. With that guidance, the Attorney General and PTC announced an expedited process through which a municipality or county could re-designate a SLEO III as a SLEO II, while retaining that officer in its employment.
The new guidance and process announced today adds a new dimension by allowing SLEO IIIs who are not working while schools are closed to change employers and serve as SLEO IIs in a different municipality or county, enabling Shore towns to recruit such officers from other parts of the state.
On April 6, AG Grewal announced additional measures to address police manpower issues caused by the COVID emergency, including steps to facilitate the hiring of retired officers as SLEO IIs.
Over the past two months, the PTC has re-designated over two hundred SLEO IIIs as SLEO IIs, and these officers have been supporting law enforcement operations throughout the state. However, there remain an estimated 200 SLEO IIIs who have not been converted by their employing agencies into SLEO IIs. The guidance issued by Attorney General Grewal today highlights that those remaining SLEO IIIs represent a significant pool of potential hires for Shore resorts, as do the many retired officers who can be hired on an expedited basis using the procedures put in place in April.
All police academies in New Jersey closed to on-site recruit training in March due to the pandemic. However, most academies continued to conduct whatever mandatory training could be performed remotely using virtual classrooms. Beginning in the second week of May, the Attorney General and PTC authorized partial re-openings of police academies, as academies submitted plans to guarantee safe and healthy training environments consistent with the guidance of the New Jersey Department of Health, county health agencies, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Additional information regarding the expedited process for hiring of retired officers as SLEO IIs can be found with the Attorney General’s press release at this link: