July 3, 2024


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“In response to the Fraternal Order of Police President Jeffrey Weber’s letter dated today, the City of Newark’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery (OVPTR) was indeed created to, among other things, ‘improve the quality of life for all residents of Newark through reimagining public safety and public health as tools to address the underlying causes of violence, not only its consequences.’ It is succeeding, and the results speak for themselves as evidenced by a more than 60-year low in violent crime, and a further 36% reduction in murders to date this year.

“By all accounts and measures, Newark has less crime, and more peace and understanding than ever before in our city’s history – precisely because we are drawing on the widest range of skills and expertise in public safety, public health and mental and social wellbeing, as well as social justice and criminal justice reform.  

“We are merging two cultures: traditional policing and social work. And while our progress and success expands wider and deeper, there are bound to be growing pains, misunderstanding and conflicts. The incident referred to in today’s letter is proof of that. We are demonstrating courage to reimagining public safety, and take the risk of thinking ‘outside the box.’

“This is a work in progress.  It demands open-heartedness and growth on all sides.  

“The City values and upholds the dignity and integrity of its Department of Public Safety – both the Division of Police and the OVPTR.

“Our police officers are the backbone of order and safety in Newark and OVPTR was created to professionalize the work of community violence intervention, which is an integral part of our public safety strategy.

“OVPTR is led by trained social workers, outreach workers, and high-risk interventionists that are on staff to lend their expertise to help officers successfully stabilize scenes and relieve pressure onboth citizens and officers. They free officers to concentrate on their training as law enforcers to protect and serve the public.

“OVPTR mentors youth and intervenes in chronic behavior that lead to arrests. It resolves ongoing conflict, creates safe passageway to schools and summer programs, and provides social supports to hot spot areas identified by police to help reduce crime.

“OVPTR helps save lives, and it reduces risks for police by creating a working and improved relationship between residents and law enforcement. This benefit was evidenced during Newark’s George Floyd protests on two specific occasions: one involving attempts to attack a police precinct, and the other to attack the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters. To be clear: the community stepped in to aid police, as they do on a daily basis for all incidents of crime and violence.

“Newark has been recognized as a national model for crime reduction, violence prevention and trauma recovery, and as such has been replicated by the State of New Jersey and by the White House. While we are proud of our accomplishments, we realize we have a lot more work to do as we blend our talent pools and attend to the pain and trauma of a population long abused and abandoned by systemic and structural harms.

           “I want to make it clear that I disagree with the overall sentiment expressed in FOP’s statement. We have been working hard to bring community and police together, to put the ‘public’ back in public safety. This statement has a spirit of division, meant to sow further distrust, and take us back to the bad old days where the police department was seen as occupying the community and not collaborating with it. We are not going back to that time. And those that prefer it, are comfortable in it, represent a department that has been gone for almost a decade now. A community united with the police as a part of it is better off and much safer.

           “Although we regret that this letter has been composed and widely distributed without the courtesy of an internal conversation, we welcome the insight and input of every member of our public safety coalition and alliance. We will use this to take an honest look at our progress and procedures and evaluate any possible need for adjustments. I have every confidence, that while we understand we have challenges to overcome, our common goal for a safer, united community will prevail.”