Newly re-elected Mayor Vic DeLuca and Township Committeeperson India Larrier both pointedly commended the work of the Maplewood Police Department in their remarks today at the annual Maplewood Township Reorganization meeting.
The remarks were notable at a time when a contentious relationship between New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the NYPD and its unions is making national news, and reverberations are still being felt regarding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in an altercation with a police officer in Ferguson, MO this past summer.
“We’ve seen events in our country lately that have both angered and saddened us,” said Larrier. “Our hearts and prayers have been with everyone involved in those events. However, we must never forget that constant and open communication is key to a good relationship between any community and its public safety personnel.”
“We’ve seen great effort on this front from our departments here in Maplewood,” said Larrier who then ask that the audience join her in applauding “the work of our chiefs and the men and women of their departments.” The comment was followed by loud and sustained applause (see video below).
In his “State of the Township” address, Mayor Vic DeLuca gave special attention to the work of the police department, noting a 16.5% drop in major crime in 2014 and a crime clearance rate of 30 percent. “I want to thank Chief Robert Cimino and all the members of the police force for their work in suppressing crime and keeping our families and property safe,” said DeLuca, who also invited those assembled to offer applause.
The comments and reaction were notable in that Maplewood is a racially and economically diverse town that is constantly tackling issues of equality and racial sensitivity. The Village Green detailed the work of both the Maplewood and South Orange police departments — and their elected governing bodies — in sustaining and growing community outreach between public safety agencies and the public in an article in December.
At the reorganization meeting today, Mayor DeLuca detailed the work of the Township Committee in authorizing additional overtime hours, budgeting for two new police officers to bring the department up to 62 uniformed members, and instituting a plan to keep a cadet in the police academy to be able to fill vacancies in a timely manner.
DeLuca also invoked recent events in Ferguson, MO and New York City with this comment: “President Obama has called for communities and law enforcement agencies to work more closely together to break down tensions and rebuild trust. Here in Maplewood we’ve taken steps to strengthen the police department’s capacity to positively interact with all members of our community.”
“We’ve diversified our police force with more people of color and women, and we’ve instituted sensitivity training so our officers are culturally competent in dealing with a diverse population,” said DeLuca. He also noted other outreach work including Chief Cimino’s quarterly meetings with neighborhood groups, Youth Aid Bureau programs and the launch of a new Clergy Alliance Program, through which the police chief will meet regularly with religious leaders “to receive feedback on community concerns and discuss public safety matters.”
DeLuca and Larrier both mentioned their concern about an “uptick in crimes involving firearms” despite the drop in major crime overall.
“We will be keeping a close eye on these activities and address them head on,” said Larrier, who, like DeLuca, promised that the Township Committee would provide police with the “necessary resources in key places to keep residents and their families safe.”
Meanwhile, said Larrier, the town and the police would “continue to build diverse and culturally competent police and fire departments.”