OCEAN TOWNSHIP – Aiming to prevent non-law enforcement officials from using police-style badges to garner favor, evade tickets, or avoid fines, legislation that would prevent state and local officials from obtaining such badges that was sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) and Joann Downey (D-Freehold) was signed into law Friday by Governor Phil Murphy.
The legislation was inspired by a 2018 incident in which the former Port Authority Commissioner verbally attacked two Tenafly Police Officers during a routine traffic stop and attempted to leverage her authority for personal gain by utilizing her badge.
The bill would prohibit certain municipal officials and state employees from obtaining a law enforcement-style badge, including Directors that sit on the board for the New Jersey Transit Corporation; Commissioners for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; County Elected Officials that were not elected as a law enforcement officer, excluding County Sheriffs; and State and Municipal Elected Officials.
“We have witnessed the potential for the abuse of power with these badges, which is why it’s important to remove that potential entirely,” said Gopal. “There’s no need for municipal and state officials to carry them, especially as receiving police-style badges has nothing to do with their actual jobs. Doing so just opens the door for these officials to abuse their badges and their power. We have an obligation to maintain the public’s trust and to preserve our government’s integrity, no matter what. This measure is a key step in ensuring just that.”
Officials who would retain their badges include police, EMS, fire officials and inspectors, among others.