On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2009-2975.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes, Nugent and Newman.
The Township of Montville appeals from the final decision of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) reversing the Township's determination finding R.S. psychologically unfit to perform effectively the duties of the position of municipal police officer. After independently considering the record before it, the Commission accepted the report and recommendations of the Medical Review Panel, N.J.A.C. 4A:4-6.5(g), which found insufficient evidence to support the Township's determination of unfitness.
On appeal to this court, the Township argues the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously by directing the Township to appoint R.S. to the position of police officer despite evidence showing he is psychologically unfit to serve in this position. Alternatively, the Township urges us to remand this matter to the Office of Administrative Law for the purpose of conducting a plenary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge where the psychiatrists involved in testing R.S. could be subject to cross-examination. Given our well-settled standard of review, we reject these arguments and affirm.
In 2008, the Montville Chief of Police referred R.S. to the Institute of Forensic Psychology for the purpose of conducting a psychological examination to determine his fitness to become a member of the Township's Police Department. On November 24, 2008, psychologist Guillermo Gallegos, Ph.D. examined R.S. over a period of five and a half hours "to determine the presence, if any, of emotional or intellectual characteristics that would detrimentally affect the subject's performance in the role of police officer."
Based on this examination, Dr. Gallegos authored a report dated December 10, 2008. According to the report, at the time he applied for the position of police officer in Montville, R.S. was twenty-four years old and married. He graduated from high school with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.9 (presumably based on a zero to 4.0 scale), and participated in school-sponsored athletic activities. He thereafter enrolled at Seton Hall University where he received a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, graduating with a 3.0 GPA. His employment history consisted of a number of part-time jobs, including: working as a security guard; doing roofing work at his father's company; and bookkeeping. He has never been terminated from any job and has not had any problems with co-workers.
R.S. has no criminal history and has never been charged with or accused of committing an act of domestic violence. His driver's license has never been suspended; he reports only one moving violation. R.S. has not served in the military nor has he been involved in doing volunteer work. He applied to the position of police officer because he likes helping people and wanted "to keep [his] town safe."
Dr. Gallegos reported that R.S. "earned an IQ equivalent of 115 . . . indicative of high average intellectual functioning." By contrast, Dr. Gallegos noted that only "average intelligence is needed for public safety work," and that "[p]olice candidates average about 103." Dr. Gallegos also found that R.S. tested average in writing ability and that his "judgment was fair."
With respect to his psychological fitness, Dr. Gallegos indicated that R.S. "considers himself to be a 'well rounded person.'" When asked to name an aspect of his personality that he would like to improve, R.S. responded that "[n]othing stands out." Dr. Gallegos noted that R.S. had been "psychologically evaluated by the Port Authority and was 'not certified.'"*fn2 R.S. has not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or received treatment for an emotional or mental health related issue. He consumes alcohol only in moderation (about twice a month) and has never used illicit drugs. His credit history and financial status are also in order.
Based on this evidence, Dr. Gallegos found that R.S. was not psychologically fit for the position of police officer. He gave the following explanation in support of this conclusion:
This candidate appears to be unreliable. On the COPS Test,*fn3 a weighted biographical questionnaire designed to make predictions about performance of law enforcement personnel, out of a possible 18 lies he ascribed to 17 of them. He implied in these responses that there has never been a time in his life when he has lied; that he never lets anything get him angry; and that he has never taken anything that did not belong to him, regardless of its value; etc. What this means is that this candidate is willing to distort the truth as long as it serves his purposes. Furthermore, even though intelligence testing indicates ...