A New Jersey radio talk show host is getting torched by police and elected officials over her op-ed titled, "NJ's Move-Over Law: Dead Cops Make Bad Laws," which takes issue with legislation requiring motorists to move into lanes not adjacent to emergency vehicles on road shoulders or to slow down.
"It's a silly law," WKXW-FM's Judi Franco wrote. She added, "Duh. No one is going to deliberately run into to someone on the side of a road. If you can move over safely, you probably will. But it's not always safe to."
Thing is, however, that drivers who failed to move over have struck seven police officers on roadsides since August, the Asbury Park Press reported — adding that State Trooper Marc Castellano was struck and killed nearly 18 months after the law was signed in 2009.
Today we remember Trooper Marc Castellano #6397 #gonebutneverforgotten #ThinBlueLine #MoveOver @TheIACP http://t.co/m68tEKTQaA— NJSP - State Police (@NJSP - State Police) 1402057422.0
"A dead cop is sad," Franco acknowledged in her op-ed. "But a horrible tragedy doesn't warrant a law that puts other drivers at risk and is almost impossible to enforce." She also takes issue in the op-ed of a proposed upgrade of the law that would add two points to drivers' records as well as the already existing $100 to $500 fine.
The backlash hits
New Jersey's state troopers' union blasted Franco's op-ed, noting it followed a 10-day suspension from her station over "abhorrent comments about New Jersey's top law-enforcement officer, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal." Franco and her co-host Dennis Malloy got in trouble in July for calling Grewal — the nation's first Sikh attorney general — "turban man," the Press said.
"Now Franco has turned to trampling on the graves of fallen police officers while compromising public safety by downplaying the importance of the Move Over Law," the trooper's union statement noted.
"The sad reality in Franco's hatred of law enforcement is her ignorance to the importance of this public safety principle. Police officers and other first responders, more often than not are dispatched to roadside encounters such as motor vehicle accidents and motorist aids," the union statement continued. "What has clearly gone over Franco's head in this instance is that she could be one of those motorists assessing the damage to her vehicle on the side of the road with an investigating officer or trooper. Likewise, she could be that motorist changing a flat tire on her vehicle with the flashing lights of a patrol car keeping her safe until being struck by a driver who did not get the message via awareness or deterrence [and] failed to Move Over!"
State Sen. Vin Gopal, who is of Indian descent and endorsed Franco and Malloy's suspensions, joined in the fray, the New Jersey Globe said.
"The lack of common sense and common decency displayed by New Jersey 101.5 host Judi Franco has surpassed even my lowest of expectations," Gopal said, according to the outlet. "To use the loss of a brave State Police Officer as click bait in order to prove her misguided opinions trivializes the tragic death of Marc Castellano. 'A dead cop is sad,' is how she trivializes this law – this is disgraceful and disgusting. 101.5 owes all of law enforcement an apology. If this bi-partisan bill saves the life of one law enforcement professional, it is well worth it."
How did the radio station respond?
WKXW management told the Press in a statement they appreciate the troopers' union feedback and noted the station's longtime, strong relationship with law enforcement.
"Our talk hosts at New Jersey 101.5 are chosen because they offer strong opinions and viewpoints," the station said, according to the paper. "We understand not everyone will agree with them — they frequently disagree with one another — and that's why we encourage our listeners to reach out on-air and online. Our goal isn't to tell anyone what to think, but to give our hosts the space to start conversations."
Here's a public service announcement about the Move Over law:
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)