EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–On June 4, 2020 at 11:22 am (EST), a fatal motor vehicle crash occurred in front of 860 Lower Ferry Road. The Ewing Police Department is attempting to locate the driver of a dark colored, 2017 to 2019 Ford Escape who was last seen turning into the parking lot of 865 Lower Ferry Road, Woodbrook House, immediately after the crash occurred. Attached is a picture of the actual vehicle we are trying to locate. Please contact Detective Julia Caldwell at 609-882-1313 ext. 5682, Officer Robert Birchenough at ext. 5569, or the Confidential Police Tip Line 609-882-7530 with any information.
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Around 100 Black Lives Matter protesters were in front of the Stone Terrace at John Henry’s this afternoon. The group is continuing their protest of alleged racist Facebook posts by one of their employees. The employee has since been let go as per a Facebook post on Friday as seen below from The Stone Terrace at John Henry’s.
Even with the employees firing, protesters said today they will be there every day starting at 3:30 pm and continue protesting until their demands are met.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today that the State has filed a lawsuit against the City of Trenton and Trenton Water Works seeking to compel them to take legally required actions to protect and strengthen the City’s water system, including actions necessary to reduce the risk of lead and pathogens in drinking water.
Trenton Water Works (TWW) supplies approximately 29 million gallons of drinking water daily to more than 200,000 people, including residents of Trenton and four neighboring municipalities – Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence Townships.
DEP and the City have, over the past decade, executed multiple Administrative Consent Orders (ACOs) in which Trenton agreed to cure its many failures to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Among other things, TWW agreed to replace thousands of lead service lines and cover a finished water reservoir, actions that are necessary for TWW to comply with state and federal law and effectively minimize public health risks. However, due in part to the inaction of Trenton’s City Council, TWW has missed many critical deadlines, has not met its obligations to replace a significant portion of lead service lines, has failed to protect its open, 78-million-gallon reservoir of treated water from contamination and reduce the risk of pathogens in the water supply, and has failed to satisfy a series of other operations and maintenance obligations. Underlying this lawsuit is the Trenton City Council’s May 7, 2020 rejection of TWW’s request for millions of dollars to meet these clear legal obligations.
“After years of mismanagement, and after the Trenton City Council recently failed to take necessary steps to address the serious shortcomings in the City’s water system, the State was left with no choice but to file this suit,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Our lawsuit demands that TWW meet its obligations to reduce the risk of lead exposure by replacing lead service lines, and to comply with a range of other environmental laws that go directly to the health of the public and especially of Trenton’s children. New Jersey’s public water systems must be held to the highest standards and must live up to their environmental and public health obligations.”
“DEP’s singular goal is to ensure safe and reliable drinking water for the people served by Trenton Water Works,” said Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “DEP recognizes that Mayor Gusciora has made progress in improving TWW and protecting public health, and recently proposed plans that would enable the system to meet its Safe Drinking Water Act obligations. Unfortunately, in light of the Trenton City Council’s recent refusal to adequately fund drinking water system improvements, it has become all the more clear that TWW will not meet its obligations under the Safe Drinking Water Act and DEP’s orders. DEP has been left no choice but to take legal action, and we have confidence that Attorney General Grewal and his team will help us bring swift relief to the people of Trenton and the communities who rely on TWW for their drinking water.”
Lead Service Lines Issue
As the Complaint explains, lead can occur in drinking water when lead service lines within water distribution systems and household plumbing corrode.
Wherever the lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion for a sufficient number of samples from a single water system — as revealed through tap water sampling — that system has experienced an “Action Level Exceedance” and federal law requires water systems to implement techniques to minimize the risk and to replace a percentage of its lead service lines.
According to today’s lawsuit, the City experienced lead-related Action Level Exceedance events during three monitoring periods in 2017 and 2018. TWW was required to replace seven percent of its lead service lines within a year of its first Action Level Exceedance. TWW did not meet that first deadline, and subsequently entered into an ACO with the DEP in July 2018.
Under that ACO, the TWW committed to replace seven percent of its lead lines – over 2,500 lines in all – by December 31, 2019. The City missed that deadline, and will miss an upcoming deadline in July to replace an additional seven percent of its lead lines, totaling 14%. To date, it has replaced only 828 of its lines, or roughly two percent.
As a result of the City’s failure to meet its agreed-upon obligation to replace many aged and corroding lead service lines, today’s lawsuit argues, DEP has been forced to seek court intervention.
The lawsuit asserts that legal action seeking a court order is required because the defendants have not taken all necessary steps to “mitigate the risk of potential lead contamination in drinking water.” The lawsuit also seeks immediate relief from the Court.
Remaining Environmental Issues
In addition to demanding that TWW replace sufficient lead service lines, the lawsuit addresses TWW’s failures to reduce the risk of contamination in its reservoir, as well as TWW’s inability to comply with other maintenance and operational requirements.
TWW maintains a seven-acre reserve reservoir, which contains millions of gallons of usable, treated water, and provides drinking water to consumers when the system is unable to meet demands. Because that reservoir is uncovered, it is subject to contamination from the elements and from birds or other animals, which poses a continuing risk of introducing pathogens into the water supply.
According to the Complaint filed today, DEP ordered installation of a floating cover to protect the reservoir from contamination more than a decade ago, and it ordered TWW to complete the cover project by 2009. The lawsuit notes that the City did not comply with DEP’s order, and that it missed two extended deadlines in the process.
As a result, in 2018, the City and DEP agreed to an ACO extending the deadline for cover installation until 2023 – with an added requirement that Trenton fulfill a number of interim milestones in 2018 and 2019 to ensure installation of the cover by the agreed-upon deadline.
According to today’s complaint, the City has not completed those steps in a timely manner, and now indicates it wishes to abandon the cover project in lieu of an alternative approach – a series of above ground storage tanks to prevent the contamination of its reserve water supply. To date, Trenton has not formally requested DEP approval of the storage tank project, which is projected to cost tens of millions of dollars. Nor has it provided a schedule for completion, or an indication of how it intends to fund the project.
At the same time, the ACO to which the City and DEP entered also required TWW to meet a series of operations and maintenance requirements, which it has repeatedly failed to do.
Most concerning, just last month, the Trenton City Council rejected TWW’s request for more than $83 million in bonds, which included $50 million for the protection of the finished water in the system, and which was also necessary to ensure that other maintenance and operations obligations are satisfied. That decision has necessitated today’s action; it is part of a pattern of inaction and outright refusal to marshal the resources necessary to meet the City’s legal obligations to effectively run the water system and protect the public health.
Col. Callahan to Release Identities of All State Troopers Subject to Major Discipline over Last Twenty Years
June 15, 2020
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today ordered all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to begin publicly identifying officers who commit serious disciplinary violations. Under the order, going forward every state, county, and local law enforcement agency in New Jersey will be required to annually publish a list of officers who were fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days due to a disciplinary violation, with the first list to be published no later than December 31, 2020.
Until now, the identities of officers subject to discipline have generally not been disclosed to the public unless they have faced criminal charges.
Today’s Directive also permits law enforcement agencies to go further and identify officers who have committed serious disciplinary violations in the past. For instance, Attorney General Grewal, in conjunction with Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), announced that NJSP will publish a list of all State Troopers who have committed major disciplinary violations over the past twenty years. The historical list will be released publicly no later than July 15, 2020.
“For decades, New Jersey has not disclosed the identities of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Today, we end the practice of protecting the few to the detriment of the many. Today, we recommit ourselves to building a culture of transparency and accountability in law enforcement.”
“We cannot build trust with the public unless we’re candid about the shortcomings of our own officers,” said Colonel Callahan. “By releasing the names of State Troopers who committed serious disciplinary violations, we are continuing the long, hard work of earning and maintaining the trust of the communities we serve.
Action by New Jersey State Police
Since at least 2000, NJSP’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) has published an annual report summarizing disciplinary matters involving State Troopers. Each report includes, among other things, a “synopsis of major discipline,” which briefly summarizes each disciplinary action against a State Trooper resulting in termination, demotion, or suspension of more than five days, but excludes the name of the State Trooper.
Since 2000, NJSP has imposed major discipline in approximately 430 cases. This includes dozens of State Troopers who received suspensions of more than 180 days, as well as a number of State Troopers whose employment was terminated as a result of their misconduct.
The identities of these State Troopers will be published no later than July 15, 2020. Prior to publication, each of the individuals whose names will be revealed will receive notice in writing.
Also on July 15, 2020, the other two law enforcement agencies in the Department of Law & Public Safety – the Division of Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Commission – will publish similar lists both identifying any law enforcement officers who were suspended for serious disciplinary violations as far back as the agencies’ records go and providing a summary of that misconduct. Those officers will likewise receive notice prior to the release of their names.
Statewide Release of Officers’ Names
Attorney General Grewal’s statewide order requires all state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to release, on at least an annual basis, the identities of law enforcement officers who have been terminated, demoted, or suspended for more than five days. Law enforcement agencies will be required to publish their first annual list no later than December 31, 2020.
To effectuate this change, Attorney General Grewal issued Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive (“AG Directive”) No. 2020-5, which revises Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures (IAPP), a document that governs the internal disciplinary process for New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies. By law, every law enforcement agency in the state is required to adopt policies consistent with IAPP.
Today’s order expands upon internal affairs reforms issued by the Attorney General six months ago. In December 2019, as part of the Excellence in Policing initiative, Attorney General Grewal issued AG Directive 2019-5, known as the “Internal Affairs Directive,” which marked one of the most substantial revisions to IAPP since its initial publication in 1991. Among many other changes, the Internal Affairs Directive strengthened oversight of internal affairs, and allowed for internal affairs files to be shared with civilian review boards that establish certain procedural safeguards. Importantly, the Directive also revised IAPP to require that each law enforcement agency publish on its website an annual “synopsis” summarizing all disciplinary complaints against the agency’s officers resulting in a fine or suspension of ten days or more, but did not at the time require the disclosure of the identity of those officers.
Attorney General Grewal’s new order creates an affirmative obligation for law enforcement agencies to identify the officers subject to serious discipline in their annual synopses. This requirement is prospective, but does not prevent law enforcement agencies from identifying officers previously subject to serious discipline if they conclude that doing so would serve public safety and transparency.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers in New Jersey serve with honor and astonishing courage under extremely difficult circumstances,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Most go through their entire careers without engaging in conduct that warrants a major disciplinary action against them. But their good work is easily undermined—and quickly forgotten—whenever an officer breaches the public’s trust and dishonors the entire profession. The likelihood of such misbehavior increases when officers believe they can act with impunity, and it decreases when officers know that their misconduct will be subject to public scrutiny.”
“These commonsense measures ensure that New Jersey remains at the forefront of policing reform in this country. And we’re not done yet. We will continue evaluating other steps to promote transparency, accountability, and trust in law enforcement. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Building Public Trust
Today’s announcement is the latest step in Attorney General Grewal’s ongoing effort to strengthen trust between law enforcement and community and builds on his December 2019 launch of the Excellence in Policing initiative. Among other recent announcements:
On June 2, 2020, Governor Murphy and Attorney General Grewal announced a new phase of the Excellence in Policing initiative, which included five actions: expansion of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training; support for statewide licensing of police officers; further development of the statewide “Use of Force Portal”; plans to update the statewide “Use of Force Policy” for the first time in two decades; and the creation of a “Incident Response Team” in the Division on Civil Rights.
On June 5, 2020, Attorney General Grewal issued guidance prohibiting all New Jersey law enforcement officers from using “chokeholds, carotid artery neck restraints, or similar tactics on any individual, except in the very limited situations when deadly force is necessary to address an imminent threat to life.” The guidance further noted that “because these tactics create a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm,” officers who cause a subject’s death or injury while performing them “face potential criminal liability.”
On June 12, 2020, Attorney General Grewal provided additional details about plans to revise New Jersey’s “Use of Force Policy,” including plans to host community listening sessions in all 21 counties. In addition, OAG launched a website (nj.gov/oag/force) to collect the public’s comments about proposed revisions to the policy.
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor W. Reed Gusciora today announced a strategic partnership with Greater Trenton, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports economic revitalization. The new Businesses Helping Businesses program will provide 2% interest loans of up to $20,000 with generous repayment terms to help businesses in Trenton cover expenses, including payroll, rent, mortgage payments and utility costs.
“The COVID-19 public-health emergency has had a profound economic impact on our city’s business community and our local economy, interrupting employment, devastating balance sheets, and causing deep uncertainty for the future,” said Mayor Gusciora. “This loan program is designed to be an accessible lifeline to city businesses that are in need of inexpensive, quick capital to restore their operations, retain employees, and begin to regain normalcy.”
Trenton city-based businesses eligible for a Businesses Helping Businesses loan can get up to $20,000 from the program at a rate of 2% to be repaid over a five-year period. Participating businesses do not owe a payment or interest for the first year of the five-year term. Loan repayment begins in installments in year two and continues for 48 months.
Business owners can apply for a Businesses Helping Businesses loan and learn more about eligibility requirements online at www.trentonnj.org/businesshelp. Eric Maywar, the city’s business ombudsman, is available to answer questions about the program at (609) 989-3529.
The loan program is funded in part by Greater Trenton, a nonprofit group that uses private funding and a network of collaborative relationships to advance economic revitalization efforts in Trenton. In addition to commitments from Greater Trenton board member organizations including Wells Fargo Foundation, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Investors Bank, NJM Insurance Group, and Princeton University, support also comes from organizations of all sizes throughout the region including Trenton Downtown Association, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), Trenton Corrugated Products, Inc., Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and NJ Realtors.
Greater Trenton CEO George Sowa says that the nonprofit, which was founded in 2015 and uses private funding and a network of relationships to advance economic revitalization efforts in the state’s capital city, welcomes the new alliance with the Gusciora administration to help businesses operating within the city’s 7.5 square miles.
“We are thrilled to partner with the city and support this important effort to help small businesses recover and retain jobs during these exceptionally difficult times,” said Mr. Sowa. “We quickly pivoted to create the loan program, bringing together organizations of all sizes to help Trenton businesses and residents. This initiative is part of Greater Trenton’s core mission to build on the city’s strengths, create equitable opportunities, build and sustain economic revitalization and create a bright economic future for the people of Trenton.”
“We already created a loan program to help businesses located within the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone,” noted Mayor Gusciora. “Businesses Helping Businesses casts a wider net and is available to all businesses operating in the city that meet the program’s eligibility requirements.”
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Supreme Court has previously ruled that we must be a colorblind society and
gender-neutral when it comes to employment. In a decisive decision, the Supreme Court ruled that those protections extend to gays and transgender workers.
I am pleased that the ruling extends to the estimated 8.1 million gay and transgender workers across the America and, in effect, adds L.G.B.T. discrimination to the protections afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the ruling, the court affirmed employment protections for a social worker who joined a gay softball team; a skydiver who revealed himself to be gay to a customer; and a funeral director who announced intentions to exhibit the gender that matched her mind.
In this regard, we are finally telling the apprehensive gay teen that it’s okay to be who you are. The Court’s ruling is genuinely an advancement for the principles of equality for all.
FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Congressman Chris Smith, whose Fourth Congressional District includes several popular Jersey Shore fishing basins including Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant, welcomed the decision, effective today, to lift the COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of anglers permitted on charter and head boats, as long as all anglers adhere to 6’ social distancing protocols.
“This could not have come a moment too soon. While overdue, this is still great news,” said Rep. Smith, who has been pushing hard for healthy, safe and economically-sound reopening of the Jersey Shore fishing boat industry.
“Unfortunately, anglers have missed the beginning of fluke season, but the original relief of 25 passengers and now the unlimited access, gives this critical industry, as well as the related businesses such as bait & tackle shops, a fighting chance to recover more quickly and fully. I want to thank Governor Murphy for lifting these restrictions and re-opening this vital part of the Shore economy.”
The COVID-19 quarantine has been especially hard for the for-hire fishing boats, many of which operate for only eight to ten months a year. Losing the months of March, April, May and half of June has been financially devastating.
On May 16, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 146 allowing up to 10 total passengers on party boats. However, sailing with less than a dozen paying passengers was not economically viable for the party boats, some of which can hold over 100 passengers. On May 22—the opening day of fluke season—the number of passengers was raised from 10 to 25.
“This decision does not allow the boats to run at full capacity due to social distancing requirements, but it will allow those in the fishing industry to earn a living and feed their families,” Smith added.
According to Smith, in addition to the party boat fleets in Belmar, Brielle and Point Pleasant in his congressional district, there are also party fishing boats in Atlantic Highlands, Barnegat, Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May and Fortesque.
In addition to advocating for the safe and economically-sound re-opening of the for-hire fishing industry, Smith has also supported federal emergency programs—such as the Paycheck Protection Program—to help the fishing industry, as well as tens of thousands of other small businesses in New Jersey, sustain operations while battling the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.