June 14, 2020
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried has released a statement and prospective on the current climate and support of Robbinsville Township Police Department and its officers.
Below is Mayor Fried’s statement in a Facebook post this morning:
Since I like to start with good news, I am happy to report we are beginning the process of opening our municipal building, restaurants and other retail in town. There have been only two new COVID-19 cases, putting our total since March 22, 2020 at 109 with 88 cleared from isolation.
I would like to speak for a moment concerning the Robbinsville Township Police Department and the social unrest and debate surrounding police departments across the country. Robbinsville is a vibrant, diverse and safe community which we can all be proud to call home. We had a wonderful gathering last Sunday in support of Black Lives Matter and a charge to eliminate racism, ensure equality for all people … and to love one another. As a society, and as a town, we must do our part. To do that we must unite and acknowledge that some people around us are hurting and seek change.
In order to make meaningful change, it is important to acknowledge that thoughtful, courteous and professional police departments are part of the solution. They are needed to ensure we are safe in our homes, schools and country. Along with my administration, Township Council and I stand unequivocally with the Robbinsville Township Police Department. We could not ask for a more upstanding and caring law enforcement officers to protect and serve our residents. As Mayor, if I was not proud of them, you would certainly be asking me why not?
I am the town’s Public Safety Director and the RTPD is a direct reflection of my leadership.
One of my favorite lines from the movie “Remember the Titans” is when the young man says: “Attitude reflects leadership.” I would say that our police department reflects both mine and Chief Chris Nitti’s attitude. For those of you who have not met our Chief, he is as fine a gentleman you will ever meet. I think there are interesting aspects about Chief Nitti that we should all know. He was selected to participate in a highly prestigious FBI training for community policing in Quantico, Va. To participate, Chris had to leave his wife and two young sons for 10 weeks to complete the program. Upon his return, Chris and I sat down to discuss ways the RTPD could improve policing in Robbinsville. One of the things he requested was to invest in the first indoor facility to train our officers on de-escalation techniques and “shoot-don’t-shoot” responses.
The prospect of taking a life in the line of duty is not something many of us are required to do in our daily lives. It is something that each law enforcement person has to contemplate each day they go to work. The ability to train our officers, as well as others departments from around the County, in a controlled environment was something we both felt would make a tremendous difference. Day-in and day-out, the RPD continues to exemplify community policing under his leadership.
Other important policies and actions have unfolded in town that I feel are worthy of mentioning as it relates to our police department. We were the first to use cameras in all of our cars, and one of the first departments in the County to add body cameras. In addition to the D.A.R.E. program, they were the first in Mercer to implement the C.A.R.E. program to help get people suffering from addiction into treatment instead of arresting them over and over again. “Coffee With a Cop” events were very successful pre COVID, as was rewarding children with coupons for free ice cream at Friendly’s when they were “caught” doing something good by our officers. They are also there for each of us when we have been afraid, or when we just needed help. Imagine for one moment calling 911 and no one came?
I am aware that some people in town are advocating for the removal of the resources officers from our schools and breaking all ties with the police department as a whole. For those advancing this position, ask your children how they feel about the officers they have come to know. Ask other parents how they feel about not having the SROs in our schools. I have asked teachers, parents and students. The feedback is overwhelming positive. One young child out of school since March recently sent a message to one of our SROs, Melyssa Alonso, that said simply: “I love you. I miss you.”
As your Public Safety Director, having resource officers in our schools is the No. 1 thing I can do to keep your kids safe. These officers are not aggressive people looking to cause problems or promote division or inequality. They are there to protect and serve, and all three of our resource officers do a tremendous job. While I want your child to have an amazing, well-rounded school experience, it is also important that they come home at the end of every day.
In closing, I want to acknowledge that Council President Ron Witt helped me craft this post. He feels exactly as I do. We want all people who are hurting to know we respect that you are upset and deeply concerned about racism. Help us do whatever is necessary to collectively stomp it out. One of the many things that is great about being human is we can feel two things simultaneously. We can be outraged at the abuses in other cities and departments around the country AND proud of our police department at the same time.
We believe until black lives matter, all can’t matter.
While we face a difficult path, we must try. We also must work together to achieve substantive change. This includes our men and women in blue. We are also calling on all mayors and elected officials across the State to be accountable for their police departments and organizations. It is time to take a long, serious look inward. Elected leaders need to stand up and be held accountable for the departments they have created. Remember United we stand divided we fall.
God bless you all.