‘Law needs to be revised’ — NJ police union president weighs in on cops, kids, curfew
More and more New Jersey towns are adopting curfews for kids under 18. Some New Jersey malls are requiring adult supervision. You might as well call this "the summer of supervision." As hard as it is getting kids to leave their video games and get out of the house, New Jersey has now taken the fun out of their summer.
I blame Governor Murphy for his laws that put the police at risk of facing a 3rd-degree Deprivation of Civil Rights charge, which could mean a jail sentence for the cop if they bust a minor for weed or alcohol.
New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association (NJSPBA) president, Pat Colligan, called into my New Jersey 101.5 show to discuss that topic:
What used to happen when a kid was busted for weed or alcohol?
As was always the case, for 80 to 90% of the time, the kid was thrown in the back of the police car and driven home. It's not like we were charging these kids with, you know, underage possession. I mean, in some cases they were; but for the most part, especially in my days in patrol, they were driven home. And I knew they were in better hands turning them over to their parents. But, you know, there's not a cop in this state that wants to touch anyone under the age of 21 with alcohol or marijuana, because, you know, cops generally don't like going to jail for five years.
How did it get to this point?
It was when marijuana was legalized. It looked like, it was a 300-page bill, and (Governor) Murphy literally, I think, had something like 20 minutes to sign the bill. Legalizing marijuana was part of what he ran on; I don't even think he was happy with this.
But at the end of the day, the bill was signed and hasn't been fixed yet, unfortunately. There was a lot of talk when it first went through. And I hate to say it, but until, you know, the 16-year-old daughter of a senator is found in a gutter somewhere, that's when we'll get changes. When, when somebody's you know, seriously injured or, suffers from alcohol poisoning.
I had one of my officers pull behind one of the schools at three in the morning, on a Friday night, and he sees a car with smoke coming out of it. And he pulls up, and there were four juveniles, two boys, two girls, and all he could say was, 'Is everybody safe in the car?' and he knew he had to pull away. He knew there was no opportunity to ask for ID, there was nothing in plain view. So, that precluded him from getting anybody out of the car or seizing the marijuana. But for kids at three, four in the morning, getting high behind the school, and the cop was powerless to do anything... And he was smart in pulling away, I hate to say it.
Can you explain how cops stopping kids for weed or alcohol is a deprivation of civil rights?
I think the original plan was the racial disparity of the arrests, (but) I don't have the statistics on it. If that's the case, then I think there were better ways to go about it. Certainly smarter ways to go about it.
I mean, do we want to protect our juveniles, or do we want to make sure that they don't get arrested or brought in? And generally like, especially with marijuana, small amounts of marijuana and alcohol, those kids weren't getting arrested, they were given warnings.
Stationhouse adjustments are called 'curbside warnings' and cut loose, and we would take the alcohol. I mean, you don't want the kids drinking anymore of that. You know, alcohol poisoning is horrific. We see that all the time, unfortunately,
Do you think this is the way it will always be going forward?
Look, it was bipartisanly, the legislature was saying, 'Hey, let's fix this. We gave the governor this bill, he had 20 minutes to take action on it. Let's fix it.'
Even the parents were saying, 'Hey, we would have never voted for legalization of marijuana if we knew it was going to take our parental rights away.'
But then it just kind of died. Nothing ever happened, not for lack of us in the Chiefs of Police Association trying to revive it. Again, it'll take some horrific tragedy, some horrific tragedy for us to finally get the law changed.
To face five years, a third-degree charge, and destroy your career; there's not a cop in the state that's going to kind of put his position on the line or his pension on the line to take in a juvenile and violate this. It's just, it's really crazy.
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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