The Jersey City Public Safety Advisory Board heard a number of concerns at their first public meeting yesterday, ranging from the public’s distrust of police to funding more youth after school programs.
The board, which was recently expanded from six members to nine, was created by Mayor Steven Fulop back in September 2013, but did not host a public meeting until last night at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center.
Jersey City native Bruce Alston asked Public Safety Director James Shea if any suggestions made by the board have actually been turned into policy by the police department.
“The answer is yes: we’ve gotten suggestions on policing tactics, on places where we need police – where we can see it – because it wasn’t showing up in statistics and officers didn’t realize there were problems with the youth like this man said,” Shea said.
“… Part of the early push for the foot posts up here came out of the police community advisory board. Recently, a little more technical, a way of helping to deal with addresses of people that have needs – in those addresses.”
Shea further explained that a new system is being put into place when 911 calls are placed from the aforementioned, which would allow police to have better communication when assisting someone with special needs.
Another city native, Daryn Martin, said that a big problem in Jersey City is the distrust many people have towards law enforcement, largely because the makeup of the department “does not look like the community at all.”
However, Shea begged to differ, stating that the JCPD is 30 percent Hispanic, 11 percent black, four percent Asian or Pacific Islander and one percent American Indian. He added that “department’s change from the bottom up.”
When a female resident asked if a Domestic Violence Response Team currently exists, Police Chief Philip Zacche said there currently is not – though he would like to see that change.
“That program went back to the wayside as funding dried up. Right now, we are exploring the option of just what you spoke of … If you ever have an issue like that, you can request to have a female officer respond as well.”
Clarence “Coach C” Collins, an at risk mentor at University Academy, said the Jersey City police explorers program has achieved a certain level of success – yet it continues to be underfunded and rarely promoted.
During the lengthy dialogue, Shea said “it’s a funding issue and hopefully there’s something we can do about that.”
City resident Camille Wideman was unimpressed with Shea’s answers throughout the evening, blasting the police for lack of community programs and for doing an overall ineffective job.
Board members present were Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31) aide Asheenia Johnson, Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Leader Pamela Johnson, Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski, Public School No. 24 teacher Janine Brown, Downtown advocate Dana Patton, Ward A Committeewoman Denise Ridley, and Pedro Figueroa.
The other two board members, Jersey City NAACP President William Braker and Rev. Reginald McRae, were absent.
Council President Rolando Lavarro, Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne, and former Freeholder Jeff Dublin were also in attendance.