The Governing Body of the Township of Scotch Plains overwhelmingly condemns the actions of Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin and the other officers who stood by and watched while Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness and ultimately died. There is a zero-tolerance policy for horrific acts of violence and acts of racism in our police department and in our community.
At the same time, we pledge our support to the Scotch Plains Police Department. The police leadership, specifically Chief Conley (and in conjunction with Fanwood Chief Trigo) released a statement also condemning these actions. Our police department has worked hard to establish and build trust in our community and our sincere hope is that this horrific incident in Minnesota will not diminish these efforts. Several years ago, our governing body implemented body worn cameras to protect the both the officers and the public during police interaction.
Scotch Plains is and remains No Place for Hate! Incidents like this remind us that there is still much work to do with racial healing in our country. The history of hate and oppression in our country should not be forgotten. We must use this as a time to reflect and continue to educate ourselves as a community. And, as a community, continue to work on the local level to be proactive with thoughtful and ongoing communication. Teams such as Truth and Racial Healing, the SPF Ministerium and Social Justice Matters are so important during any time of crisis and injustice and we are thankful that these teams are part of our community.
We’ve all seen the protests around the country that turned to violence. Although we acknowledge the feelings people have, we are proud of our community’s peaceful response and reactions to this crime and we stand united in our commitment to providing equitable and just leadership for all our residents.
We are writing this statement to the residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood to announce our official condemnation of the actions of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the other officers who stood by and watched while Chauvin knelt on Mr. George Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness and ultimately died. We have watched that video from multiple angles, and cannot find one single justification for why any individual, in handcuffs, not resisting, is put in the prone position with an officer kneeling with his full weight on his neck, for nearly 9 minutes!
Neither of us have ever been part of, been witness too, nor given approval for any kind of training that would authorize a tactic such as this to be used by any of our officers. We fully agree with the arrest and charges that were put on Derek Chauvin, and anticipate that the other officers who stood by and did nothing to offer assistance to Mr. Floyd, will also find themselves being charged, as they should be.
The members of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Police Departments have made many strides in an effort to build a trusting relationship between the residents and visitors to our towns. We, along with every other police department in Union County, under the direction of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, have implemented a body-worn camera program where all of our patrol officers and other officers who are in contact with the public must wear a body worn camera and record all encounters with members of the public.
For every incident that involves a use of force, the video and reports are reviewed by the Platoon Commander and then by the Division Commander to make sure that the proper use of force was used and that no more force than that which was necessary was used. We also have our commanding officers randomly review videos for every one of the officers that serve in their command. We have used this to make sure that the Commanding Officers know what their officers are doing on a daily basis and also use several of the videos as training tools if we find an officer doing something contrary to the accepted practices of either of our departments. This program offers even more transparency between our officers and the members of the public that we serve.
All of the officers in New Jersey also must have Use of Force, Biased Incident, and Racially Influenced Policing training on an annual basis. Over the last three years, Fair and Impartial Policing was implemented and all officers in Union County have had to participate in this training to make sure that policing is done on an even and fair basis for all.
We both meet with the members of the Ministerium on a monthly basis to keep open lines of communication at all times with the leaders of the Houses of Worship in our communities as well as other township leaders. We also meet with the group Social Justice Matters in an effort to improve the race relations between members of our communities and members of our police departments. We have improved upon our community policing efforts by implementing the Cops and Kids program where officers from both Scotch Plains and Fanwood and the school children from both communities get to interact on a fun level and build relationships that last a lifetime with our officers. We also have a very strong LEAD program, (that took the place of DARE), to keep building on the positive relationships between the young members of our communities and our officers.
These, along with several other programs and activities that our officers have participated in over the last several years, are a great foundation for a very strong relationship that we have built with the members of our communities. We hope that the horrific actions taken by Derek Chauvin and the other Minneapolis officers do not destroy the relationship that has taken us years to build. We feel that we have to let the Justice System take its course and that ultimately justice will be served to the Floyd family and to all who have felt betrayed and let down by incidents such as these.