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Now Law: Houghtaling, Downey and Johnson Measure to Ban Law Enforcement-Style Badges for Certain Officials

With the goal 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 was signed into law Friday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The new law (A-4389) prohibits 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 applies 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 law defines “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 law, 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 law passed the Assembly in June, 76-0, and the Senate in September, 38-0.