BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Police Department joins the thousands across the country calling for racial justice; we understand that police are a focal point of a fight for racial equality in the United States.
Here in Berkeley Heights, our Department has worked for years to engage in outreach to our community – whether it be through our schools, the Diversity Council, Police Athletic League, or event such as the Police Youth Academy, Trunk or Treat and “Police Santa.” Many of us grew up here, and still live here, raising our own children in this wonderful community. We have seen firsthand how it has grown and become more diverse, and have worked to make it a welcoming community for all.
We proactively foster relations within our town, to not only increase our residents’ trust in us, but to develop open lines of communication so when controversial issues arise that may involve police, they feel comfortable coming to us and speaking openly and freely.
Engaging in constructive discourse on issues important to our community in order to reach a satisfactory resolution has always been our priority and correspond with the core values that serve as the foundation of the BHPD. They are:
Professionalism: In our actions
Respect: For all citizens and each other
Integrity: Truthful, honest and deserving of trust
Dedication: To the organization and our duty
Excellence: In everything we do
That “PRIDE” not only represents the pride we take in ourselves as we uphold these values, but it’s what we also hope our community feels when they think about their police force.
To that end, we would like to paint over the blue line currently on Park Avenue leading from Plainfield to Town Hall, where the Police Department is located. We have heard you.
The Blue Line
In 2016, our former DPW Director wanted to show support to the BHPD by painting a blue stripe down a section of Park Avenue. This was welcomed in our community, and we greatly appreciated the sentiment. Fast-forward four years later, and we still appreciate it and all the steadfast backing and encouragement we receive from this great community.
However, we also appreciate the fact that the “blue line,” which also historically has represented law enforcement’s separation of order from chaos, has taken on a different, much more negative meaning. No matter it’s supportive, positive, original intent, we understand that in today’s society, some people of color may feel frightened, rejected and/or unwelcome when they see it.
We want to send the message that “Berkeley Heights sees you, welcomes you, and will be stronger with you.” Anything short of that is unacceptable to us.
“I have never been more proud of this Police Department,” said Berkeley Heights Police Chief John DiPasquale. “We have a team of police officers who care about this community, uphold the highest ideals when it comes to professionalism, and are sensitive to the concerns of our residents. They would rather find other ways to honor our police department than to make one single person feel alienated here in Berkeley Heights.”
“The Berkeley Heights Police Department is an integral part of our community,” added Mayor Devanney. “The ‘PRIDE’ they exhibit day in and day out, often without recognition, is a testimony to how woven into our community they are. I applaud their decision and desire to make every resident feel welcome.”
The Police Department, with the assistance of the Community, will seek different ways to honor the police officers who have given so much to our community, and to highlight our vital community policing efforts. One idea is a “contest” in which community school-age children draw their best ideas on how to illustrate our “community policing” program; a combination of elements from each design will be used in a “final” community policing emblem that we can place in our new Municipal Complex, on a flag, and elsewhere. (Similar to the bike road-e-o logo contest held every year in the elementary schools.)
“Our police officers don’t do any part of their job – nor do they go consistently above and beyond - for recognition; they do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because they love this town,” said Chief DiPasquale. “Finding a different way outside of the blue line to honor our Police Department’s commitment to this community is now the right thing to do.”