Aiming to prevent non-law enforcement officials from using police-style badges to garner favor, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Eric Houghtaling, Joann Downey and Gordon Johnson received final legislative approval on Thursday, passing the full Assembly by a vote of 76-0.
The bill (A-4389) would prohibit the New Jersey Transit Corporation from issuing a law enforcement badge or a badge that could be mistaken as such to any member of the corporation’s board of directors. The same would apply to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for its commissioners; to counties for any county elected official not elected as a law enforcement officer; and to municipalities and the State for any elected official.
“We’ve seen multiple scenarios recently where commissioners have tried to use their badges to get out of traffic stops,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “This is unacceptable behavior and it will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
The measure would define “law enforcement officer” to mean a person who is empowered to act for the detection, apprehension, arrest, conviction, detention, or rehabilitation of persons in violation of the law.
“There’s no reason for transit commissioners to have badges resembling those worn or carried by law enforcement,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Not only could these badges potentially confuse real law enforcement officers, but it makes it all the more easy for commissioners to try to abuse their power. Under this bill, that will no longer be possible.”
“No one is above the law. We cannot allow state, municipal and transit officials to use badges to attempt to prove otherwise,” said Johnson (D-Bergen, Hudson). “The only people who should be wearing badges are first responders themselves.”
The bill passed the Senate in September, 38-0; it now heads to the Governor’s desk.