Assaults on New Jersey law enforcement officers have spiked in recent years. To deter would-be assailants, many of whom are already behind bars, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie says penalties must increase. On Monday, the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee cleared his bill that would stiffen penalties for those assaults.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer would be charged with a second-degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $150,000. The legislation bars pleas to lesser charges.
Currently, such assaults that result in bodily harm to officers are third-degree crimes that carry five-year maximum sentences and $15,000 fines. Assaults where no bodily harm results are fourth-degree crimes, with fines of $10,000 and 18-month prison sentences.
Additionally, the bill requires those using body fluids to attack officers must submit to communicable disease testing. Assault victims would have access to those results.
“Not only have attacks on law enforcement officers been increasing, attackers have been resorting to spitting, biting, and other depraved actions that put these men and women at risk for disease,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “Would-be attackers need to know that such violence will not be tolerated.”
Officials from both the State Troopers Fraternal Association and New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, which represent state troopers and corrections officers respectively, said assaults have increased exponentially over the last several years. The Department of Corrections reported in 2022 attacks on personnel jumped from 200 the previous year to 424. Nearly half of those involved body fluids. More than 10% of its 4,500-member workforce was out on leave due to assaults last year.
The bill covers attacks on Department of Corrections employees, county correctional police officers, juvenile correctional police officers, state juvenile facility employees, juvenile detention staff, probation officers, sheriffs, undersheriffs or sheriff’s officers, and any municipal, county, or state law enforcement officers.
“Law enforcement workers are exposed to dangers most of us can’t even imagine simply because of their line of work,” Sauickie said. “They are targets for vile attacks because of who they are and what they do. They need to know that justice will be sought if they are attacked on the job.”