Public safety skips state licensing

Officials say the school is exempt

News Editor

The public safety department at County College of Morris does not require its security officers to be licensed through the New Jersey Security Registration Act of 2007 (SORA), and according to public safety director Harvey Jackson that isn’t an issue.

In addition, most of CCM’s security officers only receive first aid training and mental health screenings upon hiring.
Jackson said that his department does more than just security, and therefore is not required to submit to SORA licensing.  

SORA states that all organizations who fall under the classification of “security officer company” must have the organization and all of its officers licensed according to SORA.

SORA defines “security officer company” as “any body, board, person, firm, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, joint venture, fund, authority or similar entity that is organized for the purpose of or primarily engages in the business of furnishing for a fee, hire, reward or compensation one or more security officers . The term shall include any business of watch, guard or patrol agency.”

The act explicitly excludes government agencies and school districts from preschool to high school but not colleges.

Jackson said that his department does not qualify as a “security officer company,” and therefore, his officers are not required to hold valid SORA licenses. He said that since public safety is a department under CCM and CCM does more than just security, the college is not a security officer company and neither is public safety.

“A security officer company, that’s all they do is security,” Jackson said. “A proprietary can have his own security officer, but it’s run by the proprietary; it’s not a security officer company. What that says is that a security officer company has to be licensed. If I want to be a private detective, I have to be licenced, but any business – Macy’s – that is not a security officer company has a right to protect its boundaries with security officers.”

The New Jersey Guard Training Academy, which says that it is the largest company which trains people looking to attain SORA licenses to work as security guards in New Jersey, has different views.

“As of 2007, SORA training is mandated for all contract security positions throughout New Jersey,” the agency says on its website. “Unfortunately some companies will hire people without a SORA license. The unknowing security officer will be fined $1,000 and could be barred from working security in the future. Some companies try to get around this by changing their title, however, the officer will still be held liable for the fine.”

Jackson said that when the law was first enacted, he and representatives of security departments of other New Jersey colleges told state legislators that they would not require their officers to be licensed according to SORA.

“We as a group of state college directors, we went straight to state legislature and said, ‘Look, we have our own training, and we don’t intend to use guns,’” Jackson said. “And they’re teaching commercial training; we’re teaching training for colleges, and so, we were sanctioned by the state police long before SORA started, and we still are.”

Jackson said that most of his officers receive little training when hired because most of them are retired police officers and therefore do not need training; all of his officers receive first aid training and mental health examinations. He said that the few officers who do receive additional training undergo the New Jersey College and University Police and Security Training course at Rutgers University, a 40-hour course, the cost of which comes out of public safety’s budget granted by the college. According to Rutgers’ website, the college requires all of its security officers to “receive more than 40 hours of formal training through the New Jersey College & University Public Safety Association (CUPSA) prior to assignment of duties.”

“Do I send officers there? Not as much as I used to, simply because I changed my hiring practices, and what I mean by that is if I hire an officer with hardly any training, they have to have some security training because if the security training is out of a Macy’s or something like that, I’d look at that officer and probably send him to that class,” Jackson said. “The other officers that I hire more of are retired police officers, so it’s not necessary to send them to that class.”

Compliance with SORA can get expensive. The act states that all owners of security officer companies on initial registration must pay a $300 application fee, a $5,000 surety bond, and a $500 licence fee. The licence must be renewed every two years, and the licence renewal fee is $200.
Costs also come with licensing every security guard as they are required under SORA to undergo training courses. The cost of a SORA training course for an officer’s initial registration at New Jersey Guard Training Academy range from approximately $85 to $140. A SORA licence is valid for two years, according to the SORA law. The cost of recertification courses ranges from approximately $45 to $65 with the New Jersey Guard Training Academy.

A CCM student who chose to remain anonymous said that around the summer of 2015, he inquired about working as a security officer at CCM, but when he showed his SORA licence, he was surprised to learn that none of the officers had the licence. He currently works as a security guard at the Whitlock Packaging Corporation and is outsourced by US Security Associates. He said that he was required to show a SORA licence before working there, and if he does not get a new one after expiration, he will be suspended without pay until he gets a new one.

Michael Jungreis contributed to this story.


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