New cops must be academy grads

Council passes ordinance changing hiring procedure


EDISON — New police officers in Edison will now be required to have already graduated from a state-accredited academy, making the township no longer responsible for testing and training prospective hires.

The ordinance changing the hiring procedure was adopted during the town council’s Sept. 24 meeting by a vote of 5-2, with council members Antonia Ricigliano and Tony Massaro casting the dissenting votes.

Under the previous arrangement, potential new recruits were issued a basic written test to assess their knowledge of police procedure and abilities, administered by an outside agency. After that, new hires were sent to a police academy, at the department’s expense, in order to be trained. The process would take about six months, during which the recruit would still draw salary and benefits from the department while he or she is training.

Now that the procedure has been changed, the testing and training portions of the hiring process will be eliminated in favor of hiring pre-certified, or alternate route, candidates who have already graduated from a New Jersey police academy or are only a matter of months way from doing so. From there, potential new hires would be vetted before an interview board and subjected to background checks.

Police Director Brian Collier, in previous conversations with the Sentinel, said that changing the procedure would save the township money, saying that it costs between $3,000 to $5,000 to send a police officer to the academy, and that while they are there, the department is still paying the new recruit about $30,000 in salary and benefits. Favoring pre-certified candidates, Collier said, will shift the burden from the taxpayer to the recruit.

He also said that the quality of new recruits will also be better because they will have already gone through rigorous training.

During the discussion on the ordinance, Ricigliano raised concerns that the change in procedure could make the process too arbitrary due to language in the ordinance that says that candidates are interviewed “when the need arises,” and also wondered what it meant that those pending certification could also be interviewed. Collier said that need is limited by the funding available and that

pending” means people who have a “finite, determined date of graduation.” He noted that there is currently a list of 10 potential hires pending certification, but that none of them can come on board until graduation.

Massaro, meanwhile, said that he thought the main thrust of the ordinance made sense but that he would still prefer to see some sort of objective, standardized test for new hires as a remaining metric of objectivity. Collier answered that there will be a review of the ordinance each year to assess its impact on the department, so that the process will be in a continual state of selfcorrection.

Councilwoman Melissa Perilstein voiced her support for the ordinance, pointing to the quality of the new hires the department would get.

“I think it takes resources and uses them as efficiently as possible. … These individuals can hit the ground running,” said Perilstein.

Council President Robert Diehl, who cast the final “yes” vote, voiced that he still has some hesitation and concern over the ordinance but said that this was somewhat ameliorated by the presence of the annual review process in the language of the ordinance.

“I’m going to go with you on this, but I am going to look forward to that review,” said Diehl.

While representatives from the Edison Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the local police union, did not comment on the matter during the meeting, in previous conversations with the Sentinel, PBA President Mike Schwarz expressed his opposition to the changes, saying it would discourage local residents from becoming cops.

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