May 30, 2020
WEST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday, I received a message from a young lady who messaged the police department to tell me that she is scared for her life and scared for her dad, her brother and her boyfriend. I have to say this message made me so sad. It made me hurt inside that the actions of someone in a profession whose very nature is to protect all and to serve the community broke that trust, committed this horrific act and sent a shockwave of anger and fear, which reached this young girl in West Windsor.
She went on to ask what we were doing to make sure this did not happen here and what we could do to improve community relations.
At this point, I was proud to say that as a police officer for 31 years and the Chief of Police I was confident in the men and women of the West Windsor Police Department. I was confident because we have spent a lifetime being a part of the community and making community policing the focus of our mission. I want our history to speak for itself. I want our social media over time to show how our officers truly care about all members of the community and have been there for them regardless of the situation. I have personally developed relationships with our religious communities and consider the leaders of the over 13 religious organizations in town my personal friends. We have stood side by side with them in laughter and celebration and stood in front of them in times of trouble.
I have also met with our African American Parent Support Group and have had serious conversations throughout the years about the police and its relationship with African American youth in West Windsor. We have worked hard to make sure our officers are seen as helpers and friends and this effort is ongoing and constantly evolves. I am thankful for the wisdom from both Joy and Latoya who are always welcome for coffee and a discussion on what we can do better.
We pride ourselves in well trained professional officers who exemplify Courage Knowledge and Integrity. These words are sewn into every West Windsor Patch and sewn into the fabric of each and every officer. Training is ongoing and never ends. In fact, training for our officers is a living, breathing life force which grows and evolves each and every year. Learning never stops. Whether it’s a quick lesson at briefing, an online training video and test or a training class, this learning continues. I am confident that this would never have happened in West Windsor because of the training of these officers and their respect for all life. Our officers are masters at de-escalation. When these dedicated men and women, who have faced COVID-19 each and every day without regard to their own safety and families, arrive on the scene, people breathe a sigh of relief because they know help has arrived.
We have already had roll call discussions on this horrific event and I have attached the words from one of my Sergeants about this training:
So I sat down this morning with 6 young officers when we were going on duty to talk about George Floyd and what happened. I solicited from them their opinions before giving them my opinion. My idea was to get their thoughts and then really give them an education on right/wrong, tactics, procedures, ethics and just plain caring for your fellow man, no matter what the circumstances.
The conversation lasted over an hour and a half and I was surprised by their statements and thoughts. Not one of the young officers could find an inkling of justification. Each was appalled and embarrassed for how poorly some people represent our profession.
Whereas I thought I was going to have to give some life’s lessons to the young ones, I didn’t have to. But, being me, I took the opportunity to still give the life’s lessons to reinforce what they already knew.
What happened to Floyd is truly tragic and could always be avoided. Standing around and doing nothing is just as bad as being the ignorant weak person that takes a life. But I am certain that the young officers that I work with know better, would act differently and will keep passing that down to others throughout their careers.
A sad day for everyone. There are no winners only losers. But a proud moment for me this morning.
I am truly sorry for George Floyd and his family. I can promise you this agency will continue to train and continue to be the protectors of this community and more importantly be part of its family.
I am always available for anyone who would like to meet and would like to discuss any issues. I have always had my door open for a coffee to anyone who would like one. I hope this helps explain to those who worry what I see and why I am not worried about the men and women of West Windsor Police and their interactions.
Chief Robert Garofalo