Were NJ troopers punished for allowing GOP lawmakers to vote?
The New Jersey State Police troopers who were at the forefront of last weeks confrontation with Republican Assembly members who defied the statehouse vaccine mandate are no longer assigned to the building.
After troopers refused to physically stop GOP lawmakers from entering the Assembly Chamber, or forcibly remove them from their seats, Speaker Craig Coughlin decried what he called "a colossal failure in security" and "something we can't tolerate."
Some Republican lawmakers ignored and walked past state troopers who were denying them access to the Assembly floor last Thursday because they hadn't complied with a new vaccine or test rule for access to the statehouse.
Troopers stationed at the entrance to the Assembly did, at first, attempt to prevent GOP lawmakers from entering the chamber and asked them to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
Push never came to shove though, and Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, soon declared, “They're not going to physically restrain us. We can walk right past them.”
Some Republicans, including incoming Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, are suggesting the troopers have been removed as a punishment.
However, a spokesman for the State Police says troopers are routinely reassigned, telling NJ Globe it is "due to staffing issues, promotions, individual (mutual) requests, operational needs of the Division of State Police and various other factors."
The exact reason these particular troopers were reassigned is not clear. The State Police typically do not comment on such personnel matters.
Gov. Phil Murphy mobilized the New Jersey National Guard, but said it was not to provide added security. Murphy said they were there to set up a rapid testing site for those who could not prove vaccination status.
Democratic legislative leaders also moved this week's voting session from in-person to remote.
A judge has allowed a Republican lawsuit against the vaccine mandate to proceed, with oral arguments scheduled for later this month, but refused to block the mandate while the case is heard.