Ocean County lawmakers challenge bill that would remove immunity for police
Ocean County 10th District Legislators, Senator Jim Holzapfel (R) and Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R) and John Catalano (R), are challenging a bill just introduced which would take away the qualified immunity defense from police, leaving them open to prosecution and lawsuits.
Among the concerns for Assemblyman McGuckin with this bill is that eliminating qualified immunity for police "would be disastrous" for departments across the state as well as taxpayers.
"The qualified immunity is the one chance where police officers can have a judge rule, independently, on whether they violated someone's constitutional rights and it's done early on in a case and if it's done correctly, those cases that can proceed should proceed and those that clearly do not, they should be brought to an end," McGuckin tells Townsquare Media News. "Getting rid of qualified immunity would render every police officer to a lawsuit every time they arrest somebody."
The legislation from Senator Nia Gill follows the Marijuana bill signed into law by Governor Murphy earlier this year which subjects police officers to possible 3rd degree crimes and civil lawsuits for depravation of civil rights which could result in 3-5 years in prison and/or hefty fines if they investigate the underage possession of marijuana or alcohol.
Many Trenton Democrats also wanted to eliminate the liability statute for police and immunity all together.
It's all part of a state and nationwide trend by certain lawmakers to remove immunity and protection for police.
"I think there's clearly a nationwide agenda by certain individuals and certain organizations to essentially strip police officers of any protection in the hopes that policing as we know it today will come to an end," McGuckin said.
The legislation from Senator Gill would take away protection for police but McGuckin explains that'll also affect you as well when it comes to taxes and helping foot the bill from court.
"I think that the residents of our district (10) and our state don't quite understand, yet, the impacts that it would have on them, on their families and on all the taxpayers," McGuckin said. "Qualified immunity is one way that towns can not be subject to very costly lawsuits and without that protection, insurance rates are going to skyrocket for municipalities. Right now, the cost to defend a police officer in a lawsuit is extraordinary."
If legislation like the one introduced by Senator Gill and the language of the marijuana law continue to trend and remove protection from police, it'll be a much different look in society.
"If someone is attempting to cause trouble to me or my family, I'm going to call the police and I don't think that people understand what this could look like in 5-years without the police being available to protect us," McGuckin said. "It's a very slippery slope and quite frankly, this is a battle that needs to be fought, and we need to win it. This is just an assault on law and order, in my opinion, and we need to stop it as soon as we can."