Becoming a Law Enforcement Officer

The Elmwood Park Police Department is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

This is an extensive subject. We will introduce the the New Jersey process and lay out some of the different available options.

NJ Department of Personnel Track

The New Jersey Department of Personnel, formerly known as Civil Service, administers the entry level testing for about half of the law enforcement agencies in New Jersey. Generally, test announcements along with applications come out in January and must be returned shortly thereafter. The applications are processed, and the test is usually administered in the spring. (It is strongly recommended that you enroll in a test preparation course before taking any law enforcement exam. The competition is fierce, and in some cases a fraction of a point difference in grades could mean losing the chance at a job you want) The exams are then graded and lists are returned to the agencies ranking applicants by score.

Intergovernmental Program

For further information about the Intergovernmental Program:

Special Officer

In New Jersey there is a recognized position known as the Special Officer. Special Officers are often utilized in beach communities as seasonal police officers. They have less training than regular officers but do possess certain police powers. The position can actually be broken down into two sub-parts. First, there is the Special Officer Class I. The Class I Special Officer goes through several weeks of training (depending on the structure of the training schedule) and is trained in motor vehicle laws, first aid, criminal law, use of force and other basic areas. He or she will generally be utilized for parking and traffic enforcement or to supplement a police presence in a certain area. Class I Special Officers do not carry firearms and have limited law enforcement powers.

There is also the Special Officer Class II. The Class II Special Officer goes through several months of training, usually at night, and is given all of the training listed above plus much of the training given to a regular police officer including firearms training. The Special Officer Class II has full police powers but only while on duty.

If you are interested in becoming a Special Police Officer you should contact your local police department and inquire about positions. If they do not utilize Special Officers, contact other surrounding departments. As indicated above, shore towns hire a tremendous amount of Special Officers. There is no “pay your way” option for the police academy for Special Police Officer positions. You must be sponsored by a police department.

Strategy for Becoming a Law Enforcement Officer in New Jersey

If you have made the decision to enter law enforcement, you need to put together a strategy for a massive effort.

First, you must identify your goals. Where are you willing to work? For what types of agencies are you willing to work? In asking yourself these questions, ask yourself another question. If a municipal police department located three counties away were to offer me a job, would I take it? If the answer is yes, then it should be on your list. If the county jail were to hire me tomorrow, would I take the job? Again, if the answer is yes, this agency should be added to your list.

Once you have answered the above questions you must begin familiarizing yourself with the agencies within your geographic area of interest and those within your agency type area of interest. On a map draw circles if you must. You must then learn the hiring procedures for each of these agencies. Do they utilize the NJ Department of Personnel? Do they run their own exams? If so, how do they advertise when an exam is being given? Many departments today have websites, and most include a page on their hiring procedures. For the Chief’s agencies, we strongly recommend saturation mailings of your resume.

Once you have finished the research, you have to look at yourself. Look at your skills, your knowledge and your strengths. What do you have to offer them? If you were to apply to our agency, we would ask you what you have done to prepare for the job. What have you done to make yourself a more desirable candidate? If you don’t have an answer with substance, you would get passed. There are enough people looking for law enforcement jobs these days to allow agencies to be very selective.