Essex County Authorities Arrest Armed Man for Impersonating Police Officer
A Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with impersonating a police officer after he was allegedly caught at an Essex County building carrying a loaded gun and a fake badge on Tuesday.
According to preliminary reports, Mr. Steven Wiggs, 37, of Pennsylvania was attending a child support hearing at the Newark courthouse when officers found him in possession of the gun and badge that he stated was for his Pennsylvania Constable job.
After an investigation, police say the badge was fake and they believe Wiggs made up the story of being a constable in Pennsylvania according to the charges filed against him.
In NJ and Pennsylvania, the role and responsibilities of the Constable has been marred by controversy.
In a March 2019 article produced by Advanced Media, the report stated that Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow sent letters to the chief of the New Jersey constables, demanding he and other constables discontinue using the word ‘police’ on badges, shirts, hats and uniforms. Romankow even forwarded the matter to the Attorney General’s office.
According to the Advanced Media report, in New Jersey, constables are peace officers with limited powers, including the authority to arrest offenders, deliver writs and subpoenas and provide security, among other duties.
In NJ, they are appointed to three-year terms by a council person in the township where they live. Each municipality can have between two and 50 constables. Private attorneys and other interests, never the town or state, pay for their services.
Under the Pennsylvania law, Constables are Public Officers elected or appointed to their position in accordance with the laws of elections. A Constable is a sworn Law Enforcement/Peace Officer that can arrest for felony crimes and breaches of the peace committed in his presence, or by warrant anywhere in the commonwealth.
In a February 2019 news story, writer Steve Esack from 'The Morning Call' said State Rep. Barry Jozwiak, R-Berks, a retired state trooper and former elected sheriff, proposed a bill in the legislature to eliminate elected constables in Pennsylvania, saying their role in the criminal justice system is outdated.
Esack's reported that Pennsylvania lawmakers immediately dismissed the bill. “That bill’s not going anywhere,” said John-Walter Weiser, an Adams County constable who serves as president of the Commonwealth Constables Association, one of at least three lobbying groups in Harrisburg, according to Esack's report.
Wiggs vehicle -that resembled a police car- reportedly took up space at an NJIT College facility on some occasions in the evening hours according to a source close to the investigation. It is not clear if NJIT police officials ever checked the suspect's credentials.
According to Essex County records, Wiggs is charged with Illegal Possession of a Weapon and Ammunition Magazine and Possession of a False Id.
Police say the suspect was sent to The Essex County Jail for processing and his vehicle was towed away.
The investigation remains active and ongoing.
INFORMATION CREDIT: NJ Advanced Media, Steve Esack -The Morning Call-