By Erin Delmore
“It’s respect both ways, to say ‘we’re here for you,'” said Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano.
Read between the lines. A few dozen New Jersey towns are showing their support for law enforcement.
“A Thin Blue Line. I mean it represents law enforcement. We’ve had a very difficult couple years, a few years, in our profession. It’s certainly been a dangerous profession. We’re targeted just because of the uniform we wear,” said New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan.
“The climate in the country within the last year and a half, two years, with all my brothers in blue being shot and killed. We have a target on our back. It’s never been that way,” Provenzano said.
But it turns out, thanking the men and women in blue by painting the town blue isn’t quite that simple. The Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to the Somerset County Engineer’s Office saying, “filling in the gap in a double line, either partially or fully, does not comply with the provisions of the [Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices]… The use of blue pavement markings is limited to supplementing white markings for parking spaces for persons with disabilities.”
“I’d like to find the handicapped person who’s going to confuse a line in the middle of the roadway with a parking spot. I mean, if that’s the case, then respectfully, they shouldn’t be driving,” said Colligan.
He also says he thinks the Federal Highway Administration has better things to do.
“Highway deaths just went up over 10 percent, biggest increase in 50 years, and somebody has time to sit at their desk at the Highway Administration and weigh in on a blue line in New Jersey? Just boggles my mind,” Colligan said.
Provenzano took up the issue with state legislators. State Sens. Kip Bateman and Tom Kean Jr. condemned the federal guidance against the Thin Blue Line in a press release this week, calling it “an overreaction to a very important local matter.”
“I march in the St. Patty’s Day parade every year here in Somerset County. And my guys, I follow them, my honor guard, and I stand right in the middle of them marching down the middle of Main Street. What am I walking on? The green line. Nobody complains,” said Provenzano.
Colligan explained, “People are talking about legislation and it costs a lot of money to do legislation. I hope the state isn’t going to waste that kind of money. I hope that towns will just turn and say, it’s a blue line. Is it a law? I don’t think they’re violating a law. It’s inexpensive. It’s $15 in paint, it’s $20 in time. I’d say wait until the Highway Administration comes in with cease and desist orders and see what happens.”
A legislative approach is taking shape fast. Bateman told Provenzano he already has a resolution prepared.