The “Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago Law,” named after the Jersey City police officer who was gunned down in July of last year, that aims to further regulate armed security guards was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Detective Melvin Vincent Santiago was just beginning his career in law enforcement. His shooting was a grave tragedy,” said outgoing Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33) in a statement, who first spoke to Hudson County View about the legislation in March.
“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.
Specifically under the bill, 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.
Under current law, only security officers who are employed by a “security officer company” that furnishes security services to other entities are required to register with the superintendent.
“It is very clear to us that current law needs to be changed to ensure better training of security officers for their jobs. Lives depend on these changes,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) in the same statement, who talked with us about the potential law on the one-year anniversary of Santiago’s death.
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.
A person convicted of any of the following crimes or offenses would not be permitted to register as a security officer:
1. A crime of the first, second, third, or fourth degree
2. An offense involving the unlawful use, possession or sale of a controlled dangerous substance as defined under the law
3. An offense where the issuance of a license would be contrary to the public interest, as determined by the superintendent.
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.”
Outgoing Assemblymen Charles Mainor (D-31), Jason O’Donnell (D-31) and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) also sponsored the legislation.
The bill was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee in June and now awaits a vote from the Assembly at a date to be determined.