Corrections Officers Can Become School Police Officers Under This New N.J. Law

Since the Parkland shooting, the state of New Jersey has been working to increase school security by adding more armed SROs.

Corrections Officers Can Become School Police Officers Under This New N.J. Law

“If a prison guard can protect the Pope and citizens of this great state I assure you we can protect the children in our school systems."

In a unanimous vote, a new state law in New Jersey will allow almost all law enforcement personnel under the age of 65 to become armed school police officers, including former correctional officers.

Signed on Monday by Governor Phil Murphy, the law includes retired NJ Transit cops, Port Authority Police, Fish and Wildlife officers, among others, to bolster school security, reports NJ.com.

“They are job-tested and proven in high-pressure situations,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce. “Their presence in schools will make the halls, cafeterias and playgrounds safer.”

Before the law was enacted, districts could hire anyone as an armed guard as long as they have a license to carry a gun and hold an Armed Security Officer credential. While inexpensive, they are not police officers, have no law enforcement authority and have no radio communication with local police.

Schools were also limited to only hiring retired police officers under the age of 65 as school police officers. Now, the pool is much larger with the added fields of officers.

Some have voiced their concerns about how well former corrections officers, who spent their careers guarding prisons, could transition into a school setting.

While their skills may leave them well equipped in situations such as a school shooting, skeptics question how they would handle a less violent incident with young students. Some worry their mere presence at the school could be a disruption.

Christopher Wanger, a retired Denville Township police chief, says he is worried about the ex-prison guards working with children.

“I am not ecstatic,” he said. “We have worked really hard with the public to say we don’t want our schools to be a prison.”

William Sullivan, executive vice president of the union that represents the state’s corrections officers says these officers already have full arrest powers and are often assigned to large-scale events like the Super Bowl.

“If a prison guard can protect the Pope and citizens of this great state, I assure you we can protect the children in our school systems,” he said.

The National School Climate Center urges schools to be clear on the protocol for when officers should get involved with students.

Chosen officers will be physically fit and have basic police training.

When selecting candidates for campus police and security personnel, here are a few more tips:

  1. Look for the right personality traits
  2. Look at their background
  3. Be mindful of your local job market
  4. Have an in-depth interview

About the Author

Katie Malafronte
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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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One response to “Corrections Officers Can Become School Police Officers Under This New N.J. Law”

  1. Joe says:

    Wow, as a retired NJ State Correction Officer, where I retired at the rank of Major, I find Wanger’s assessment totally bereft of reality. A prison is the physical structure with cells, fences, walls, and towers, not the professional law enforcement officer working within it. I personally spent a week in the state EOC after 9/11 representing my department (NJDOC). We sent lighting teams and k9 officers to ground zero, sent officers to fort dix to work with understaffed DOD police running checkpoints for them, worked with PAPD at Newark airport, patrolled round valley, spruce run and manasquan reservoirs to protect against further terrorist attacks, secured and patrolled the family assistance center at Libert State Park. We patrolled the barrier islands and other areas in the wake of super storm sandy. Worked the World Cup with njsp, the night of remembrance, the pope detail, the super bowl, etc etc.

    We are on the JTTF and the fugitive task force. We have a large Hazmat team (COBRA).

    More importantly, Correction Officers (Now correctional police officers by official title) are extensively trained in interpersonal communication skills, deescalating situations and reading crowds and body language.

    Wanger’s opinion is one formulated through ignorance of who we are and what we do. There are no prisons in close proximity to Denville, the NJDOC doesn’t bring state inmates to local courts unless the writ is signed by a superior court judge, which is rare, and a local PD would deal with the county jail intake only. With that said, there wouldn’t likely be much interaction between the law enforcement officers of Denville and the NJDOC.

    I would encourage the retired Chief to learn more about Correctional Police Officers, and once he did, I’m sure he would be very comfortable if not ecstatic!

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