Republican Gov./presidential candidate Chris Christie signed “Melvin Santiago’s Law” yesterday, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats named after the Jersey City detective that was gunned down in the Walgreens parking lot last summer.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The legislation was sponsored by Carmelo Garcia, Raj Mukherji (both D-33), Jason O’Donnell, Charles Mainor (both D-31) and Shavonda Sumter (D-32) to expand the scope of current law regulating armed security guards in New Jersey.
Garcia first told Hudson County View about the legislation interview in a sit-down interview back in March, while Mukherji spoke to us about the bill in July – on the one year anniversary of Santiago’s death.
Moments earlier in the day, officials hosted a press conference at the West District Police Station to dedicate the building to Santiago.
“Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago was just beginning his career in law enforcement. His shooting was a grave tragedy,” Garcia said in a statement.
“Security guards are hired by businesses to deter potential criminal activity and protect property. They are the first on the scene and, often, the first line of communication with the police.”
Under the “Security Office Registration Act,” or SORA, security guards employed by security guard companies are strictly regulated by the Division of State Police. This bill extends SORA’s provisions to armed security guards employed by private companies.
Under the law, any person employed as an in-house security officer who is required to carry a firearm as part of his or her duties by a company that maintains a proprietary or in-house security function is required to register with the Superintendent of State Police and complete an education and training course.
Previously, only security officers who are employed by a “security officer company” that furnishes security services to other entities were required to register with the superintendent.
“It was clear to us that current law needed to be changed to ensure better training of security officers for their jobs. Lives depended on these changes,” Mukherji added in the same statement.
“Stronger training and requirements will help ensure tragedies such as this one are avoided in the future.”
Hudson County PBA State Delegate Matt Stambuli added that “The passing of this law is crucial for the safety of all law enforcement officers, as well as the general public.”
“Proper training and equipment would have, most certainly, prevented the death of Officer Santiago of the Jersey City Police Department. This law will also reduce the chances of similar violent acts from reoccurring in the future.”
Other requirements of SORA also would be extended to armed, in-house security officers. An armed in-house security officer would be required to be 18 years of age or older.
Furthermore, a person convicted of any of the following crimes or offenses would not be permitted to register as a security officer:
a crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree
an offense involving the unlawful use, possession or sale of a controlled dangerous substance as defined under the law
an offense where the issuance of a license would be contrary to the public interest, as determined by the superintendent.
A certified security officer instructor who violates SORA’s provisions would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree and subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for a subsequent offense. The violator’s registration also may be revoked or suspended.
Under the law, registered in-house security officers will be issued special identification cards, the illegal use of which would constitute a crime of the fourth degree.
The law also requires a person employed as an in-house security officer to complete the education and training program within one year following the law’s enactment (July 1, 2017).
A company employing an in-house security officer in violation of SORA is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for the first offense and not more than $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses.
The law further imposes these additional requirements on all security officers under SORA:
Security officers are required to renew their registrations and complete the refresher course every year
Security guards are required to wear standardized uniforms
Security guards are required to carry their handguns in a level 3 or higher retention holster.