The New Jersey Assembly approved a bill on Thursday afternoon creating a five-year pilot program in Paterson to disallow law enforcement agencies and the courts from using expunged arrest records and minor criminal infractions to disqualify otherwise qualified individuals from employment.
“We have to begin creating opportunities for our youth instead of building brick walls in between them and their dreams,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, sponsor of the bill. “If pursuing a career in law enforcement or in the court system is their goal but they have relatively minor infractions and have proven themselves on the right path, then, yes, they should be considered for positions open in the field.”
Wimberly’s bill was passed by a 49-28 vote in the Assembly. It adds an exception to a state law that requires applicants to disclose expunged criminal records when seeking employment with municipal courts, law enforcement, and correctional agencies. This exception, for the next five years, will allow applicants to avoid disclosing arrests, charges, offenses, or municipal ordinance violations that did not result in a conviction.
Applicants also do not have to disclose convictions for disorderly persons offense, petty disorderly persons offense, or violation of a municipal ordinance. A person seeking law enforcement or judicial job with an indictable offense, a crime of fourth degree or higher, must still disclose criminal records, according to the law.
“This pilot program would give us the opportunity to determine if our current expungement law prevents too many individuals of good or reformed character, who are otherwise well-qualified, from obtaining employment in the judicial branch or with law enforcement or corrections agencies,” Wimberly said. “Depending upon the results, changing the expungement disclosure requirements could be expanded beyond the scope of the pilot program and perhaps apply permanently and statewide.”
After the five-year pilot the City of Paterson will submit a report to the governor and the legislature on the implementation of the pilot program. The bill now has to be approved by the New Jersey Senate.
Senator Nellie Pou has introduced an identical bill in the state Senate.