Home>Highlight>Senate committee delays vote on bill increasing penalties for assaulting officers

Senator Linda Greenstein at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Senate committee delays vote on bill increasing penalties for assaulting officers

Committee chair Greenstein says bill was held because of police killing in Memphis

By Joey Fox, January 30 2023 3:21 pm

A bill to increase penalties for assaulting a law enforcement officer was held from consideration in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today; Committee Chair Linda Greenstein (D-Greenstein) said that the decision was made “in sensitivity to the case in Memphis,” referring to the police killing of Tyre Nichols.

“The main reason [for the delay] is that I felt, as did others, that we should show respect for what happened with Tyre Nichols,” Greenstein said after the hearing. “They’re really about two different things, but the link is the police. So I felt like it just seems more respectful if we hold it. We’ll do it in a couple of weeks.”

As currently written, the bill would upgrade assaulting a law enforcement officer to a crime of the second degree and establish a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years. Greenstein said that the mandatory minimum portion of the bill is subject to be dropped pending amendments, a move supported by the law enforcement unions in attendance at today’s hearing.

Speaking before the committee, State Troopers Fraternal Association President Wayne Blanchard – who called the January 10 killing of Nichols, an unarmed Black man, an “atrocity” and an “embarrassment to our profession” – said he was optimistic that amendments to the bill will make it more widely acceptable.

“We look forward to being before the members of the committee again to have a more perfect version of this bill,” he said. “But most importantly, we [need to] protect the safety of our members and hold offenders accountable.”

The bill had drawn forceful criticism from progressive groups before today’s hearing, criticism which has not been alleviated by the decision to delay its consideration.

“If you think the bill is so bad that you can’t pass it because it would make you look terrible in the wake of a horrible tragedy instituted by violent police conduct, then perhaps you shouldn’t pass the bill at all,” New Jersey Policy Perspective’s Peter Chen said on Twitter.

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