TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Murphy signed legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco and Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, that will increase school security by expanding the categories of retired law enforcement officers eligible to work as class III special law enforcement officers in public and nonpublic schools, county vocational schools and county colleges.
The bill (A1400) expands the 2016 Special Law Enforcement Officers’ Act, initiated through legislation sponsored by Bucco and signed into law by then-Gov. Chris Christie, which allows retired police officers to work in schools to help protect the community. Law enforcement experts have predicted a shortage of available officers because of the stringent hiring requirements and an increase in demand by municipalities and school districts.
“More than ever, schools across the state are looking for special police officers to help protect our school communities,” said Bucco (R-Morris). “Schools have scrambled to find retired police officers for several years. These officers are in demand because they often come from the community and are familiar with the local police department and the school system. We want to make sure more trained officers are available before school districts have to hire private security guards with less experience and at a higher cost.”
The uniformed, armed officers work part time and get paid at a lower scale, making it the most affordable option for placing the officers in schools. The special officers are paid about $30 or $40 an hour and are not entitled to a pension or benefits for their service, but they still report to the local chief of police.
“Retired officers have experience resolving confrontations and spotting trouble before it gets out of hand,” said DeCroce (R-Morris). “They are job-tested and proven in high-pressure situations, and they will be ready to immediately respond to emergencies. Their presence in schools will make the halls, cafeterias and playgrounds safer.”
Through the legislation signed into law today, any retired officer who served in a position that was eligible for participation in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, or who served as a law enforcement officer for a federal or bi-state law enforcement agency, can be appointed a class III special law enforcement officer. To work in a school, an officer must also have the appropriate law enforcement and safe schools resource officer training.
The bill passed the Assembly 79-0 in December 2018 and the Senate 39-0 in January 2019.