The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation last year issued an “Abusing the Badge” report that found many Garden State municipalities are still appointing constables.
The practice began in the 1600s when there was no such thing as police, and the British used them to keep the peace and perform other rudimentary law enforcement services in the colonies.
The SCI report recommended that constables be abolished because many carry weapons and wear official-looking uniforms and badges but have no training or supervision at all. Some engage in dangerous and illegal conduct.
Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, has now introduced a measure, A3655 to get rid of constables completely.
“They imposter police officers, this is totally unnecessary, outdated, they are a potential hazard and it’s time for the legislature to act,” he said.
The SCI report documents several examples of constables facing criminal charges for impersonating police officers.
In one instance, several Essex County constables appeared at the mass shooting scene that took place in Jersey City outside of a market back in 2019.
They pulled out guns and announced they would provide backup for the actual police officers who had been dispatched to the scene, even though the constables had no authority to do so.
Constables are not cops
“Let’s be clear: Constables are not police officers, constables have received no certification. It’s time for action here,” Dance said.
He said there are more than 130 constables across the Garden State and some of these individuals walk around and act like they are law enforcement officials, occasionally even issuing tickets and arrest warnings when they have no business doing this at all.
Why constables are considered a problem
Dance said the position of constable needs to be abolished before somebody gets hurt.
“Constables have the appearance of a law enforcement officer, but lack the training, lack the certification,” he argued.
Dancer said lawmakers need to go back and clean up old laws established in the colonial days.
“We must today have certified by the New Jersey Police Commission law enforcement officers, constables are not police officers,” he said.
Constables are politically appointed
Dancer is considered that constables are politically appointed.
“There should not be politically appointed look-alike police officers on the streets of our state,” he said.
The SCI report says that in some cases constables were appointed after paying a fee.
The measure has been referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, but no action has been taken yet.
Dancer said there is bipartisan support for the measure and he’s hoping it can move forward in the coming weeks.
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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