BELVIDERE, NJ (Warren County) – Warren County’s local and county law enforcement agencies gathered on the Warren County Courthouse steps Thursday to decry the murder of George Floyd while in police custody, and to pledge a relationship of trust and respect with the public they serve.
“What we saw in Minnesota is unacceptable and it’s the responsibility of those in office and positions of authority to ensure justice for the murder of George Floyd,” Warren County Freeholder James R. Kern III said.
“Now is about acknowledgement of what happened. We then must listen and most importantly, act. We cannot change as a society unless we change ourselves,” Kern said.
Flanked by 15 uniformed chiefs and officers representing nearly every local department, plus county agencies, the speakers expressed confidence that Warren County law enforcement officers would not act in the way the officers in Minneapolis did, and supported the right to peacefully protest the injustice that has transfixed the nation.
“The relationship between police and the community they serve is one of the most important our country has. This relationship is built on trust, mutual respect and accountability,” said Pohatcong Township Police Chief Scott D. Robb, who as president of the Warren County Police Chiefs Association spoke on behalf of his fellow officers in local law enforcement.
“In the case of Mr. Floyd, certain police failed to uphold their end,” Robb said. “While this particular incident happened in Minneapolis, the entire country has felt the pain. Communities are left feeling betrayed by the professionals they look to protect them. Police departments throughout the country are tasked with rebuilding the trust within their communities.”
“Today, we stand on the front steps of this court house to let you know, citizens of Warren County, that we stand with you. We are more than a uniform, we are part of your community. We do have work to do. We are committed to take every measure to conduct continual and extensive training to avoid similar situations from occurring in the towns that we serve,” Robb said.
Warren County Sheriff James McDonald, Sr. said he was been in law enforcement for 35 years and never encountered any fellow officers who would have done what the officers in Minnesota did.
“I understand the anger of Mr. Floyd’s death and support everyone’s constitutional right to peaceful protest. We will respect and protect you while you exercise this right,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he had no tolerance for the violence that has gripped our country for the past week. There is an obvious distinction between a protest and a riot.
“To those who protest peacefully, we stand with you. To those who seek justice, we stand with you. To project your rights, we’ll stand in front of you. The police are not your enemy. We are asked not to judge all of you by the actions of a few. We ask the same from you,” McDonald said.
“I also want to say I am proud of our police in Warren County. Our officers live in our community and care about all who live here. We cannot allow the horrific events in Minnesota to divide our community,” Kern said.
“The murder of George Floyd warrants protest. While not the case for the whole country, the protest and demonstrations that have happened around our county have been peaceful. I thank all those participating for that peace,” Kern said. “This is a somber time, but I am optimistic that our country will come out of this even stronger.”
Warren County Prosecutor James Pfeiffer stressed that racism has no place in law enforcement, and while he is confident this is not an issue in Warren County, “We have to recognized it exists in our society. And it’s absolutely wrong to its core.”
Pfeiffer said that we are all humans beings and “The color of our skin doesn’t matter… we are all the same.”
Participating representatives from local departments included Chief James Macaulay, Hackettstown; Chief Rich Hummer, Greenwich; Chief Michael Reilly, Mansfield; Chief Tom Cicerelle, Washington Township; Chief Jason Garcia, Lopatcong; Chief Scott Johnson, Blairstown; Chief Matt Scott, Belvidere; Chief Rob Stettner, Phillipsburg; and Lt. Christopher Prell, Independence.