Police & Fire

NJ Attorney General Honors Fallen Police Officer from Somerville with Community Grant Program

Summit Police Det. Matthew Tarentino, a Somerville resident, was killed in a three-car collision on Route 78 May 30. Credits: Courtesy Summit Police
Summit police officer Matthew Tarentino was a familiar site in Summit Schools, visiting classrooms to help students cope with problems like drug abuse, gangs, bullying and social media. Credits: Courtesy Summit Police
Summit police officer Matthew Tarentino was a familiar site in Summit Schools, visiting classrooms to help students cope with problems like drug abuse, gangs, bullying and social media. Credits: Courtesy Summit Police

TRENTON, NJ – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino has announced creation of the “Detective Matthew L. Tarentino Community Policing Grant Program,” to provide grants to police departments for innovative programs aimed at fostering strong police-community relations.

The program is named in honor of Tarentino, a Somerville resident and Summit police officer who epitomized the goals of community policing.

Tarentino, who graduated from Immaculata High School in 2006, was killed in a three-car collision on Route 78 in Bernards Township on May 30. He was 29.

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To commemorate Detective Tarentino’s Police Badge No. 121, the Attorney General is making $121,000 in state forfeiture funds available to New Jersey police departments for use in community outreach programs. Departments can apply for individual awards of up to $10,000 to honor the fallen officer through their community policing efforts, according to Porrino.

Tarentino demonstrated a deep commitment to community outreach, particularly the D.A.R.E. program, which is taught to students K-12 by police officers. Drug Abuse Resistance Education seeks to prevent use of drugs, membership in gangs, violent behavior,bullying, internet safety, and other high risk circumstances students encounter.

A few weeks before his death, Tarentino and the Summit Police Department were awarded the Attorney General’s Outstanding Community Policing Award for their successful D.A.R.E. program.

 “Detective Tarentino was respected and beloved in his community because he embodied all of the best qualities of a police officer and role model: selflessness, compassion for others, and an unshakeable dedication and enthusiasm for his calling,” Porrino said.

Tarentino was instrumental in Summit’s successful community policing efforts.

“I had the privilege of meeting Matthew and hearing him speak last month when we honored him and recognized his department for their outstanding community policing efforts. Because he was a visionary in this area, it is only fitting that we hold Matthew up as a model of community policing and public service.”

Tarentino had also recently successfully completed training to become a certified D.A.R.E. instructor with 20 other law enforcement personnel during a week-long program held at the Somerville Elks building in Bridgewater.

“We urge police departments across New Jersey to seek this funding and bring us their innovative ideas for community policing,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “In the end, the hallmark of a strong police force is mutual respect and trust between its officers and those they serve.”

Community policing fosters relationships of collaboration, trust, and understanding between law enforcement agencies and their communities. Law enforcement agencies acting alone can rarely solve the difficult public safety problems facing communities in today’s world. Only with meaningful public support and engagement can law enforcement agencies begin to confront these complex issues and effectively protect and serve the public.

To aid police departments that wish to enhance and improve relationships with their communities, the Attorney General’s Office is offering this grant program to fund multiple community policing projects across the state that will promote positive interactions between police and community members.

The Attorney General’s Office will provide approved applicant police departments with up to $10,000 in state criminal forfeiture funds to support development and deployment of community policing programs, activities and events. The Attorney General’s Office is responsible for program administration and will provide technical assistance to applicants during application development and program implementation.

Eligible applicants include state, county and municipal police departments in New Jersey, sheriff’s offices, and college campus police departments. Applicants may propose to enhance or expand an already existing activity or program, or develop a new initiative.

Application forms are posted on the Attorney General’s websitewww.njpublicsafety.com  at the following link:http://nj.gov/oag/grants.htm.

The deadline for applications is July 10, 2017. All awards must be spent during the five-month period from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, 2017.

Funding under this Community Policing Grant will be used to help pay for non-enforcement related community engagement activities and programs, such as, but not limited to:

Community picnics, barbecues, or concerts;

Educational public meetings, forums, or workshops;

Faith-based partnership events;

Cultural or leadership programs;

Athletic leagues or tournaments;

Youth engagement and empowerment activities;

Individual officer/youth partnerships;

Walks, 5Ks, bicycle races; or

Food drives.

Some recent innovative approaches to community policing by local New Jersey law enforcement agencies include police officers reading with kindergarten students, engaging with families to steer kids away from gang recruitment, and spending full days with youth to experience field trips, cultural programs and community events together, according to Porrino.

Another approach features an agency’s “ride along program” for clergy who join police officers in newly painted police cruisers to visit local business owners and residents at their homes, schools and hospitals. Additional community outreach programs include movie nights with police, pop-up barbecues, ice cream with a cop, pizza with a cop, coffee with a cop, shop with a cop, basketball with teens, and a swim meet for charity.

In honoring Detective Tarentino, Attorney General Porrino also thanked the members of the Summit Police Department and Chief Robert K. Weck for their strength and leadership in the days following the loss of Tarentino, who is survived by his widow, Vickie, and two sons, Robbie, 3 and Ray, 2. The couple is expecting their third child in August.

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