Bucco: Stories of Summer Shore Mayhem Prove Murphy Went Overboard with Police Restrictions
Calls for Legislature to Return to Trenton to Fix the Mess
Senator Anthony M. Bucco said a slew of stories of teenagers causing mayhem up and down the Jersey Shore this summer demonstrate that Governor Phil Murphy went overboard with new restrictions on police that deter and prevent them from taking action to enforce the law and keep neighborhoods safe.
“From Monmouth to Cape May, we’ve seen what happens when you strip police of the power to hold teenagers and young adults accountable for breaking the law,” said Bucco (R-25). “Kids have no fear of smoking pot, drinking, or breaking other laws in public when they know police can do little more than issue toothless warnings. It’s only going to get worse as more kids realize that Governor Murphy has given them a free pass until they turn 21.”
Earlier this year, Governor Murphy signed a cannabis law that includes a provision that a law enforcement officer is guilty of the third-degree crime of Official Deprivation of Rights if, during the course of an investigation of suspected underage possession of alcohol or marijuana, the officer knowingly, but not necessarily intentionally, violates any of the new procedural requirements mandated by the new law.
For example, an officer accused of detaining a person longer than necessary to investigate a complaint, which is a subjective determination in many cases, may be sentenced to between three and five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Previously, to convict an officer of the crime of Official Deprivation of Civil Rights, the officer’s unlawful conduct must have been carried out with the purpose to intimidate or discriminate against a person or group of persons because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
Now, with the recent enactments, a much lower threshold applies when the officer is interacting with a person believed to be violating the underage possession law, making it much easier to charge officers even if their behavior was not intentional or discriminatory.
“When Governor Murphy’s new laws threaten police with serious criminal charges and jail time if they make a single misstep when dealing with a minor, it’s no wonder officers are saying they feel handcuffed and can do little more but watch the mayhem,” said Bucco. “Well, there’s something the Legislature can and must do to remedy this.”
Bucco sponsors legislation (S-3577) with Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) that restores the higher and more appropriate threshold for a law enforcement officer to be found guilty of Official Deprivation of Civil Rights.
“When our residents voted ‘yes’ to legalize marijuana, they didn’t vote to criminalize the police,” added Bucco. “They didn’t vote to let kids run wild. Real leaders wouldn’t be afraid to look at what’s happened over the past few weeks and say we need to make some adjustments to the new law. The bill we’ve proposed is one part of the solution. Let’s go back to Trenton to fix this mess.”