Bipartisan legislation sponsored in part by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson and Annette Quijano to establish a memorial sign program to honor fallen first responders gained final legislative approval from the full Assembly by a vote of 74-0 on Monday.
The bill (S-1567/A-410), known as “Patrolman Joseph Wargo’s Law,” creates a memorial sign program that would allow the next of kin of a municipal or law enforcement official or police officer, sheriff’s officer, EMS Worker, or firefighter who died in the line of duty to apply to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to sponsor a sign memorializing the deceased.
“This is an enduring tribute to those individuals who have served, sacrificed and fallen in the line of duty,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “First responders are our first line of defense in our communities. Their selfless duty and dedication is more than enough reason for us to find a way to allow their loved ones to honor their memory, life and service.”
“This legislation is for our hometown heroes who have dedicated their life to saving others’ lives,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This is a way to continue to say thank you and pay homage to the work they accomplished in New Jersey’s communities.”
An applicant would be required to complete an application furnished by the DOT that would include: (1) the name and title of the individual who was fatally injured as it should appear on the memorial; (2) the date of the fatality; (3) the location of the fatality; (4) an affidavit by the applicant that the individual to memorialized was a police officer, EMS worker, or firefighter who died in the line of duty; (5) any police reports or other legal documentation related to the fatality available to the applicant at the time of the application; (6) the requested location of the sign; and (7) any other information that Commissioner of Transportation may deem reasonably necessary to include with the application.
Within 180 days of the receipt of a completed application, the DOT would make an inspection of the scene of the fatality and send a written decision to the applicant as to whether a sign many be installed. All costs associated with the application will be paid by the applicant. No state or public funds will be used to produce, purchase, or erect memorial signs. The DOT may receive gifts, grants or other financial assistance in funding or reimbursing the DOT for the costs associated with the memorial signs.
DOT would have 90 days to install the sign once an agreement regarding payment for the sign is reached. The provisions of the bill would also apply retroactively to any officer who may have previously died in the line of duty prior to the law’s enactment.
The measure now heads to the governor’s desk.