TRENTON – Those flashing lights coming up behind a car running a red light in Jersey City or Bayonne could one day come from the U.S. Park Police.
Two high-ranking, uniformed Park Police officers appeared before the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today to make their case for enforcing traffic laws and fourth-degree and misdemeanor offenses in the two municipalities.
Maj. Martin Zweig told the committee that officers in the federal law enforcement outfit often find themselves passing through parts of Jersey City and Bayonne as they move from one federal park property to another. Among those properties are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Zweig said it can cause problems if his officers come upon abandoned vehicles or witness disorderly persons and other low-level offenses. They’re already empowered to intervene on felonies.
The Park Police officers told the panel they’ve also got the blessings of the chiefs of police of Bayonne and Jersey City.
The Attorney General’s office has opposed previous efforts by the federal agency to be on a par with local officers statewide, a representative for the state office told the committee.
“The concern is there are logistical problems like getting them tickets (or summonses to issue) and then whether they’ll show up in court,” said B. Stephan Finkel, assistant state attorney general in charge of legislative affairs.
When pressed by committee Chairman Gordon Johnson, (D-37), for the department’s position, Finkel would only say administration officials would review the proposed arrangement “and see whether we’re comfortable with it.”
But Johnson, a retired Englewood cop and one-time sheriff’s officer, pronounced himself comfortable with the idea, especially in light of recent layoffs of Jersey City police officers.
“With the reduction in force in Jersey City Police Department I believe this is an effective and efficient way of using our federal resources,” Johnson told Finkel, the attorney general’s representative.
The bill passed the committee unanimously.