Stafford Police Chief Says One Key Factor will Help to Build Community Relations in New Jersey
Communication is a key facet of almost all aspects of our daily lives with everything we do professionally, at home, with family, friends, etc.
When know what's going on, we can understand better, and that goes both ways.
It may sound like a negative connotation but this method could be for good things too.
With so many laws and calls going after police in our state and society, there needs to be more communication and ears listening as well, not just hearing what gets said -- listening and acting on it.
As part of his newly appointed role as President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, Stafford Township Police Chief Tom Dellane, is working towards making improvements for overall public and community safety and much more.
Chief Dellane was a guest on Sunday morning on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave' on 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk discussing many topics and challenges facing police in our state and society.
"As President for this upcoming year, I serve as the face of the organization, so I represent the organization at a variety of events. For example, a couple of weeks ago, when Governor Murphy signed the police licensing bill into law, our association was invited to attend and I represented the association on that," Chief Dellane tells Townsquare Media. "Primarily, my role is to advocate for policing, and advocate the interest in our association with the variety of organizations and interested groups throughout the state."
This also means communication with state legislators and the Attorney General's Office.
"I communicate on a regular basis with the Attorney General's Office, a variety of people in that office, so, a lot of the proposed legislation that comes across to them, we have dialogues about implementation, about concerns of the association, about the points that people may not have considered -- there are multiple sides, and things you need to consider with any legislation, any regulation," Dellane said. "New Jersey is a little unique in the United States in that the Attorney General in New Jersey is the most powerful Attorney General in the United States and when I say that -- our constitution makes the Attorney General the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State and every police department underneath that is subject to their direction."
So far, since being appointed Acting Attorney General of New Jersey, Matthew Platkin has been open-minded to hearing the concerns of police.
"I think he's been very receptive to that -- shortly after he took over, he convened a round table on motor vehicle pursuits. The previous Attorney General had revised the motor vehicle-police pursuit guidelines to exclude a number of crimes that we used to be able to pursue for and outlawed that, if you will, so, one of them being pursuing stolen vehicles," Dellane said. "There's been an explosion in this state of auto thefts, so, surely, after he (Platkin) came into that roundtable, he revised the pursuit guidelines to, once again, allow for police pursuits and that's already borne some fruits of success."
Motor vehicle thefts and car burglaries have become a huge problem in Ocean County, Monmouth County, and, across the State of New Jersey for various reasons including the consequences of the Bail Reform Law changes enacted by the Murphy Administration and Attorney General's Office in 2018.
"I think the single biggest concern is that the people when we make an arrest and we make an apprehension, it's not like it's the person's first time. We call it 'Catch and Release', so, we're arresting the same people over and over again throughout the state. They go to jail for a period of days and then they're released with conditions pending the disposition of their case and they're right back in business two, three, four days later," Dellane said. "That is the single, most, biggest problem -- there is no deterrent, there are no consequences, so, the criminals are becoming more and more brazen every day."
Bail Reform, overall, has worked in some ways but there has seemed to be more of an issue with those re-offending and committing additional crimes -- right away.
"Anytime you have a change, they're going to have unintended consequences, and I think the intention of Bail Reform was noble and I agree with the concept, so, now I think we're down in the weeds really fleshing out some of the areas that need to be revisited and have another conversation about," Dellane said. "I think what happens with Bail Reform -- if you're arrested for a crime, and you're released and you don't commit another crime, then, Bail Reform serves its purpose, you don't deserve to be incarcerated while you're waiting for your charges to be disposed of, however, if you're arrested multiple times in a short period of time, and -- speaking from experience, in one of the car thefts, it was actually a carjacking that we had (in Stafford), the subject was a juvenile who had 8 pending criminal charges against him and had multiple warrants out for his arrest and was still released -- that's not the system working, that's not law enforcement failing, that's the system failing the community. When we weren't allowed to pursue, that word gets out very quickly, and then you lose the deterrent offense, there is no deterrent, and once you lose that, things start going downhill from there."
Outside of Bail Reform and the aforementioned other topics here so far, there are big challenges facing police and law enforcement overall in our state and beyond.
"I think, policing in general in the United States over the last several years has become more challenging. I think, society, for whatever reason, has become more distrusting and not just for law enforcement, I think it's across the board -- I mentioned, in the past, I think civility is lacking, we're not as nice as we used to be to people, so, I think people are more apt to engage in confrontation," Dellane said. "When I came into law enforcement 36 years ago, if it came across, an altercation, some sort of situation where the people are fighting, usually once a uniformed police officer arrived on the scene people would calm down, I don't think that's the case anymore, I think people are more apt to express their anger towards police officers, and, as police officers, we're trained in de-escalation, we're trained that we have to take certain levels of hostility directed towards us, and, we're trained to deal with that, but, we do see that has increased dramatically, so, I think that winning that back -- it's weird, in that, if you look at the poll numbers the public's perception and trust of law enforcement have never been greater since they started polling but at the same time, there's this underlying feeling of distrust and lack of transparency. As a police executive, I try to balance that out and try to meet with our community groups on a regular basis and we try to be as transparent as possible, but, the reality is it's the very nature of investigating criminal activity doesn't allow you to be transparent without jeopardizing the integrity of your investigation sometimes. Transparency can come at a later date, but people want what they want when they want it, and we, unfortunately, can't always provide that for them."