TRENTON, N.J. — The state of New Jersey could follow New York City in ending qualified immunity defenses for law enforcement members if a bill introduced in the state senate Tuesday becomes law.
The bill, introduced as S-3730 in the New Jersey State Senate Tuesday by Sen. Nia Gill, would follow New York City in ending the practice that often protects police officers from prosecution.
New York’s law is meant for police officers accused of civil rights violations, lawmakers announced Thursday.
The rule is meant “to ensure that officers who violate Constitutional rights in the course of a search and seizure or by the use of excessive force are not entitled to qualified immunity,” legislators said.
Spokespersons for Sen. Gill, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Democrats did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday but the state’s Republicans, including one of their gubernatorial candidates, jumped on the bill as an attack on police Tuesday.
“Qualified immunity is an important defense for police officers that discourages frivolous personal lawsuits every time they arrest someone,” said Sen. Jim Holzapfel in a statement. “Eliminating this protection would encourage a flood of lawsuits not just against individual officers, but against towns and police departments as well. This is another example of attempting to prohibit police from doing their jobs, which ultimately results in our citizens’ safety being compromised.”
Holzapfel also cited damage lawsuits could potentially do to town budgets throughout the state.
Republican candidate for governor Jack Ciattarelli was also critical of the bill.
“Phil Murphy and New Jersey Senate Democrats are taking their marching orders from national liberal activist groups, not from everyday New Jerseyans who support their local police department and wish to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe,” said Ciattarelli through a spokesperson. Not only will this bill hurt New Jersey’s police force by creating a legal ‘free-for-all,’ it will pass the extraordinary cost onto taxpayers. New Jersey’s police officers already have a difficult enough job as it is, let’s not discourage good cops from joining the force because of the threat of lawsuits everywhere they turn.”
It was unclear if Murphy supports the bill or not.