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.
“There’s no reason for transit commissioners to have badges resembling those worn or carried by law enforcement,” said Houghtaling. “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.”
“I’m the daughter of a State Trooper - I know how sacred the signs of a police officer’s authority should be,” said Downey. “These badges should be reserved only for those who have earned them, and who require them to carry out their duties. It’s disgraceful for any official to attempt to avoid the law by using an officer’s seal of authority, and I’m glad to know that we’ve now removed that possibility entirely.”
Officials who would retain their badges include police, EMS, fire officials and inspectors, among others.