A growing number of law enforcement officers in New Jersey are being spit on, bitten and assaulted but a plan is moving forward to curb this behavior.

State Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer has introduced a measure, S3093, that would toughen punishments for people who attack state troopers and police officers.

Mandatory time behind bars

The bill would upgrade the penalty for simple assault on an officer, including assault with bodily fluids from a fourth to a second-degree crime, punishable by a mandatory minimum of five years in prison if the individual is convicted.

If an officer is injured during an assault it is currently treated as a third-degree crime, but the measure would make it a second-degree crime as well.

Since July, nine troopers have been assaulted, including during traffic stops

“What’s most alarming is that four of the troopers have been spit on or bitten by violent suspects just in the last couple of days," Greenstein said.

teenager under arrest
Alexander Raths Thinkstock

The problem is getting worse

Greenstein said this reflects a disturbing trend. By changing the law and including a mandatory prison term, “it makes it a very serious crime if you’re going to assault a police officer," including by spitting or biting.

The legislation also stipulates if an assault with bodily fluids takes place, the attacker must undergo mandatory blood tests.

“We want to be certain that if a police officer is bitten, that the other person doesn’t have some communicable disease that the officer could get.”

Greenstein noted spitting and biting assaults in particular began to get worse when the pandemic started, and the problem continues to get worse.

“The pandemic really hasn’t gone away completely," she said. "People are still getting sick, we have to be certain the police are protected from these kinds of unprovoked assaults."

BCFC ThinkStock

They deserve our respect

Greenstein said 99.9% of law enforcement officers are dedicated people who put their lives on the line every day.

“They’re there to protect us. It’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure they are protected as well.”

State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, is the prime co-sponsor of the legislation.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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