Achieving the desired level of discipline within a law enforcement unit is among the most important responsibilities of the law enforcement executive, and the governing body. Yet this is one of the most frequently neglected processes within many law enforcement agencies. This will be first of a series of Blog posts that concentrate on the public employee disciplinary process as promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Personnel under Title 4A of the New Jersey Administrative Code. Having a firm grasp of the disciplinary process is critical to the well being of all Public Safety Officers. Please take your time in reading these posts as they pertain directly to the security of your employment and the means that you support yourself and your families.

          The word “discipline” was originally defined by the courts as “instruction”, “teaching” or “training”. However, its meaning and the use of discipline has shifted toward a concept of control through punishment. This emphasis on control has resulted in discipline being viewed as a negative threat to employment rather than a mechanism for remediation and improvement. Too frequently rules of conduct and disciplinary procedures are used as an end in themselves, and their purpose in reaching departmental goals is forgotten.

          Focusing on the negative aspects of discipline diminishes morale and productivity. The first step that should be used toward positive discipline is to emphasize instruction and de-emphasize control. This requires the law enforcement executive to focus on organizational practices. Unfortunately in today’s world of public employment, this is rarely the case.

          In exercising appropriate discipline, the executive must first define the goals and objectives of the agency’s units, and then announce management’s expectations to guide the units toward the realization of those goals. The law enforcement executive must establish a means to monitor performance and to correct improper actions. This approach to management as it relates to discipline insures that all subordinates know and understand what must be done, why it must be done, how it must be done, and when it must be done.

          Employees must be clearly told what constitutes satisfactory performance, non-satisfactory performance, and how non satisfactory performance can lead to appropriate discipline. In addition, supervisors and managers must know when and how to take necessary corrective action. To achieve these goals, management must establish workable procedures for documenting all expectations and advising individuals of their duties and responsibilities.

          There are numerous levels of discipline under the rules and regulations of the New Jersey Department of Personnel to include:

  • Official Written Reprimand;
  • Fine;
  • Minor Suspension (1 to 5 days);
  • Major Suspension (6 to 180 days); and
  • Termination

          In our next post we will discuss the various levels of discipline that is recognized under 4A, and the concept of progressive discipline under the New Jersey Administrative Code.

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog ( approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.