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Community Policing and Race Relations – Preventing Another Ferguson

Morristown, N.J. (February 12, 2015) – Law enforcement officials and community leaders from across northern New Jersey gathered at the College of Saint Elizabeth on February 4, 2015 to address issues of race relations and community policing. The event, sponsored by the Police Studies Institute at CSE, brought a large group to campus to address the topics of race relations in best practices in law enforcement. The seminar was timely based on recent events in Missouri and New York concerning race and law enforcement.

CSE President Helen J. Streubert welcomed the assembly and lauded their purpose. "We stress the importance of community at the College. We welcome our law enforcement and community leaders to openly discuss the topic in order to develop positive relationships."

Community policing is defined as the members of the police department becoming an integral part of the community in which they serve. It is a method of building relationships within the community for purposes of collaboration and cooperation, not only during times of crisis, but also in times of calm.

The common theme from all the panelists was the need to build relationships within the community through talking, listening, being present, and learning the needs of the community groups and religious organizations. This not only give the community a sense of safety, but also helps with intelligence as the community knows that proactive actions could prevent crime in an area.

Another common theme was that of respect, responsibility, and accountability. With positive relationships within the community, these three factors become cornerstones. With respect developing among all the parties involved, when an incident occurs, the community and the police focus on seeking truth and justice, not revenge and violence.

The seminar was attended by students, staff, members of local police departments and prosecutors' offices, members of the New Jersey Attorney's General, local churches, and federal agencies. The panel was moderated by former Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi Esq., criminal defense, civil rights, and police practice attorney. Serving on the panel were James Drylie, Ph.D., Kean University; Reverend Sidney Williams, Pastor, Bethel AME Church in Morristown; Chief Robert Kugler, Saddle Brook Police Department; Sgt. Tyrone Williams, Montclair Police Department and member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Sheriff Joseph Cryan, Union County Sheriff; Chief Paul Cell, fourth vice president, International Association of Chiefs of Police; President Kareen Campbell, National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement; and Bishop Jethro James, Paradise Baptist Church, Newark and chaplain, New Jersey State Police.

A major drawback to positive relations within the community is the "CSI effect" (from the popular TV show and is short for Crime Scene Investigation); the expectation by the community that the crime will be solved quickly with high tech equipment. Also a problem is the media wanting to publish information and going to unreliable sources for that information. The police and cooperating agencies need time to sort through all the evidence and data in order to reach justice.

When asked specifically about the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, most agreed that discrimination does still persist, although it persists in both directions. The panelists agreed that if community relations had been more stable, the aftermath would not have been as traumatic. They also agreed that mistakes had been made, but again, with positive community relations, these mistakes may not have been made. And all agreed that an incident like Ferguson could happen here. We are taking the time to learn from past events which minimizes the possibility.

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Founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the College of Saint Elizabeth has a strong tradition of concern for the poor, for developing leadership in a spirit of service and social responsibility, and a commitment to the promotion of women as full partners in society.

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