The state Civil Service Commission has rebuffed efforts by Jersey City to cancel a promotional exam for the rank of police lieutenant even though the city says it has no plans to appoint any additional police personnel to that rank.

The city, whose arguments were outlined in a legal brief prepared by labor attorney Arthur Thibault, said, essentially, that it has enough lieutenants – 66 – on its payroll and that it doesn’t intend to hire any more “for the foreseeable future.”

But the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association, which represents sergeants, lieutenants, and captains, countered – in a brief filed by attorney Christopher Gray – that the city has 14 fewer lieutenants that the maximum allowed (80) by city ordinance.

And, Gray noted, the city failed to alert Civil Service that the certified hiring list for lieutenant had expired as of July 23, 2023, thereby opening the door for the city to continue making “provisional” appointments, instead of tested, “merit-based” promotions.

Of the 66 police personnel now serving as lieutenants, 44 are serving as provisionals, Gray noted.

Moreover, 32 of the 66 lieutenants now serving are eligible for retirement and a pension equivalent to half their salary, Gray said, thereby creating additional vacancies.

According to Gray, city Public Safety Director James Shea had advised JCPSOA leaders “and assured them that the city wanted promotional testing and that (it) had requested an examination.”

On July 5, 2023, Civil Service posted an announcement for a promotional exam for lieutenant for Jersey City which a city administrator then emailed to all eligible candidates, only to retract it several hours later, Gray said.

After JCPSOA complained to Civil Service, the state agency then re-issued the notice which was posted from July 14 to July 20 at which point the city filed an appeal that resulted in a July 24 decision by CSC Chair Allison Chris Myers denying the appeal.

Issuing a new promotional list is “appropriate to ensure that fully-qualified candidates from a complete list could be appointed to … police lieutenant if the (city’s) needs to fill vacancies (in that rank) were to change in the near future,” Myers opined.

JCPSOA President Pavel Wojtowicz said the victory “marks an important victory for the union’s dedicated efforts to ensure fair and transparent promotional examinations for our diverse community of law enforcement officers.”

And union Vice President John Friend added the decision “underscores the value of our merit-based system and ensures that the dedicated, eligible officers within our ranks, many of whom are minority and women candidates, have the opportunities for advancement protected.”

No date for the exam has yet been set.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...