Port Authority and other officials will no longer be allowed to use police-style badges, thanks to a new law signed by Governor Phil Murphy on Friday, Aug. 9. The new law forbids agencies from issuing police-style badges to non-law enforcement officials, including elected officials. The rule applies to all agencies that operate in New Jersey, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, as well as municipalities and counties in the state.
The bill, which passed the state legislature in June, arose in response to a scandal involving former Port Authority Commissioner Caren Turner last year. In March 2018, Turner was captured on video intervening in a traffic stop in which her daughter was a passenger. The former commissioner flashed a gold-plated badge and demanded that the officers call her commissioner. The vehicle being driven had an expired registration and officers sought to impound the car.
Lawmakers crafted the new bill to prevent non-law enforcement officials from using what can appear to be a law enforcement credential to influence police. “We’ve seen multiple scenarios recently where commissioners have tried to use their badges to get out of traffic stops,” said state Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Monmouth, one of three sponsors of the assembly bill. “This is unacceptable behavior and it will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
It is unknown how often such non-law enforcement badges are used to get out of traffic tickets or other legal jams, and many decried the response by state lawmakers as a “knee-jerk reaction“.
It should be noted, however, that flashing any kind of badge to an officer is not a guarantee that he/she will not issue a ticket or go lightly on a person in legal trouble. As with a PBA card, showing a badge can be seen as an attempt to bribe, intimidate, or assert some kind of privilege over the officer. In some cases, it can backfire and result in the officer being harsher on the individual.