CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Township Police Detectives are investigating the theft of lawn signs from private residences in Chatham Township that were defaced with derogatory comments and thrown in front of the Chatham Township Police Department, along with shouted obscenities, on Saturday night.
Chatham Township Police Chief Thomas Miller said: "We will be identifying them. I'm quite confident my detective bureau will find them and will be charging them with the theft of the signs that were in their possession."
Miller said that his department received two reports from township residents about stolen lawn signs and has two police officers as witnesses. The officers who were outside the headquarters on Southern Boulevard when the signs were tossed near the entrance to the station.
There were four signs tossed at the police department, at least one that said "We Support Our Police", which is sponsored by the Morris County GOP, and at least one "Trump/Pence" sign.
"I'm not concerned about the derogatory comments toward the officers because that's a protected first amendment right," Miller said. "For someone to enter somebody's property and take a sign, that's problematic in more ways than one. We're concerned about them stealing the signs and then defacing them."
The defaced signs included the "F-word", and drawings of pigs and male private parts. The word "Support" had a line through it.
“These ‘We Support Our Police’ signs are solely distributed by the Morris County Republican Committee," Peter King, vice chairman of the Morris County Republican Committee, said. "It's a sad day when any American would write such vulgar evil words on a sign supporting law enforcement.”
Miller said that two police officers were outside checking their vehicles at 7 p.m. during a change in shifts when they heard the shouting of obscenities near the police/public works sign on Southern Boulevard.
"A vehicle pulled up in front of police headquarters and started yelling obscenities towards police in general and then they threw the signs out of the vehicle and took off," Miller said. "It was one car. There were multiple people in the vehicle shouting obscenities, and then they left four signs, which made some derogatory comments toward our officers. The other signs were Trump/Pence signs and there were derogatory things on there as well.
"I can tell you there were three females in the vehicle. I don't want to give you too much because it could hamper the investigation, but there were definitely three females. We haven't had a chance to review our surveillance video, but that will be forthcoming. My officers clearly saw one of the females and we have a pretty accurate description of the vehicle."
Miller said he will be updating the public when he gathers the information.
“I am very disturbed that this hate crime happened to property stolen from my daughter's home, where she lives with my 3 grandsons," Joseph Ali, Chatham resident, said. "Hateful, evil speech like that has no place in Chatham or anywhere else in New Jersey.”