CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter addressed the Parkland shooting in remarks at the Chatham Township Committee meeting held Thursday night.

He suggested that Chatham could model the Chatham Education Foundation and Chatham Athletic Foundation in possibly forming the "Chatham Safety Foundation" to provide private funds that would help the Chatham Board of Education invest additional safety measures at Chatham schools.

Remarks by Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter at Thursday committee meeting:

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February 22, 2018

I want to take a moment to address the tragic event in Florida last week. People have asked me what the Township Committee can do as it relates to gun violence and protecting our children. While we do not have the authority to regulate guns, we can focus our attention on other aspects often associated with gun violence, including bringing greater awareness to mental health issues.

Our efforts on this front have focused on coordinating suicide prevention and awareness community forums, videos of which are posted on our website; passing a resolution to designate Chatham Township as a Stigma-Free community, and hosting Out of the Darkness community walks which have attracted hundreds of walkers and raised more than $150,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Importantly each of these initiatives have helped to increase the awareness and discussion around mental
health. Our third annual Out of the Darkness Walk is scheduled for late September at Cougar Field and I encourage everyone to get involved.

Separately, a few years ago I, along with Deputy Mayor Swartz and Committeeman Kelly, spent time with our Police Department as they conducted active shooter safety drills. We experienced firsthand their rigorous training they go through to prepare for our worst nightmare. Shortly after, I proposed that the Committee provide funding to secure improved weaponry for the Police Department to ensure that they would be better prepared to address any potential situation.

Today our Police Department continues to work closely with the Board of Education not only on the security and school safety front, but also in teaching our children the dangers of drugs which often begins with marijuana, a gateway drug to heroin and opioids.

I have said it in the past and I will say it again, I consider public safety the number one priority for the Township Committee. We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of police officers whose hard work and efforts have helped ensure that Chatham Township continues to be ranked one of the safest communities in NJ and the country. In fact, we were just ranked the 13th safest city in New Jersey by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.

Looking ahead I will do everything I can to ensure that our Police Department continues to have the weapons and importantly the training they need to ensure that they are properly prepared to continue to protect our community. As we all know, Chatham residents have a proud history of financially supporting our schools and community sports programs. The Chatham Education Foundation supplements the Board of Education’s academic needs and the Chatham Athletic Foundation continues to support sports programs and initiatives in our schools and community. Perhaps it’s time to consider the creation of the Chatham Safety Foundation, which would raise private funds to supplement the Board of Education’s
efforts to support additional school counselors, mental health education and training for teachers and students, as well as increased security improvements and personnel.

Unfortunately far too often we have seen one tragedy fade from the headlines as it soon becomes an afterthought until the next tragedy. If people want change they need to stay involved and let their voice be heard. If any residents would like to discuss this matter further, or any other issue facing Chatham Township, they can always reach me at mayor@chathamtownship-NJ.gov