The recent news of disciplinary measures against Montclair Police Officer William Coad for his racist and xenophobic social media post, along with the broad public demands for real police accountability and community safety, underscore the need for police officer decertification in the state of New Jersey.
This month, California lawmakers passed a bill to decertify police for serious misconduct. After the bill is signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, there will only be three states left in the country that lack an officer decertification system for violating public trust: Rhode Island, Hawaii and yes, New Jersey.
What this means is that officers with documented histories of misconduct are able to continue on as police officers. While they may be fired for extreme misconduct, they can, and often do, simply move from one department to another. This occurs with barely any public oversight and no real consequence or accountability.
As with teachers, doctors or hundreds of other professions, the state of New Jersey should require professional licensing of police officers and allow for decertification with proven cases of misconduct. This is not just a matter of accountability and justice, but a fundamental component of community safety and democratic governance.
Police officers are not innately endowed with authority to deprive people of life and liberty. These incredible powers are supposed to be provided to them with the consent of the people they are sworn to serve. In order to function properly, in a democracy, as these powers are given, they must also be allowed to be taken away. Decertification is essential to make this a reality.
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