BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In these times of uncertainty around the country, with protests all over following the murder of George Floyd, and a peaceful protest planned for Saturday in Bridgewater, the Bridgewater Township Police Department is reaffirming its support for the residents.
“Bridgewater Township and this department will always support our residents who wish to exercise their constitutional right to assemble and protest,” said Acting Police Chief Paul Payne. “Our role will be to help to ensure the safety of all the participants and promote a peaceful atmosphere.”
A peaceful protest is planned for Saturday at 2 p.m., beginning with a march from the Bridgewater Township Library, on Vogt Drive, to the Bridgewater Municipal Complex, on Commons Way. At 2:30 p.m., the second portion of the protest is expected, with residents from the township, specifically people of color, offering their voices to share their stories in any form, whether through traditional speech, poetry recitation or music performance.
According to the organizers of the protest – several recent Bridgewater-Raritan High School graduates – those who are concerned about participating in the march because of COVID-19 are invited to attend the speaking segment at 2:30 p.m., and stay in their cars, either sitting on top, standing through a sunroof or simply looking out the car window.
In a statement to the township, Payne said that in his 23 years in law enforcement, he has seen the constant evolution of the profession, and it is the responsibility of officers, as leaders in the community, to make positive changes, and bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community they protect.
“This incident has set us back, which upsets all of us in the law enforcement community,” he said of Floyd’s death. “I cannot condone this officer’s actions or the other officers who allowed this to occur, as we all have a duty to act when other officers’ actions are not acceptable.”
Payne said in his statement that he wants to ensure the Bridgewater community that the department’s supervisors and officers are professionals.
“I know that these supervisors and officers have the ability and the integrity to handle any situation both as trained professionals and human beings,” he said. “Bridgewater police officers will continue to be effective leaders in the community, and rise to the standards you expect from us.”
Payne said that the department is always striving to improve law enforcement training for all personnel in the agency, hold officers accountable for their actions and be transparent with the public.
“Those are the promises we make to you,” he said.
At this time, Payne said, they all have to come together to make things better.
“This year has been tough on everyone,” he said. “We at the Bridgewater Police Department share the same pain as our community and nation. We are here for our community and will be here to represent our township with pride and professionalism.”