EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Human Relations Council held a Facebook Live stream on Tuesday, June 3, meant to address the state of East Brunswick’s police force and their race relations in the wake of recent police brutality protests. The meeting, the latest in the EBHRC’s “Coffee and Conversation” series of discussions, included East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen and East Brunswick Chief of Police Frank LoSacco. Prompted by the council, they answered several pressing questions that the community has had in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a policeman.
Questions asked during the meeting were submitted in advance by East Brunswick citizens, through a Google Form. The council, chaired by Erum Shakir, stated that they strongly condemned the killing before the Q&A began - “No one should ever feel fear in their lives due to hate or intolerance of any form,” she said. Mayor Cohen agreed that police brutality is an issue that warrants discussion.
“We do everything we possibly can… to prevent what we’ve witnessed from happening here,” he noted. Cohen also stated that he believes that all politics are local politics, and that police brutality cannot be mandated away, and must be faced head-on.
LoSacco also condemned the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department, but denied that similar behavior was occurring within the East Brunswick Police Department. He stated that the EBPD is “like a family”, and that they try to address problems within the force in a manner that befits that relationship. In addition, he mentioned the anti-discrimination training that local police go through. The rigorous process includes background checking, psychological tests, de-escalation training, and the discouragement of discriminatory racial profiling.
He said that he does everything he can to make sure that members of the EBPD are “dedicated, well-trained public servants who have hearts of gold”, and that the force is very diverse in nature. Both LoSacco and Mayor Cohen spoke out in support of protesters, as long as these protests were nonviolent. They said that they would even attend these protests if they were to occur.
A rumor about attacks on police and supporters of law enforcement was also discussed in detail by Cohen, LoSacco, and the members of the board. The EBPD was tipped off to a rumor that these individuals, along with “anyone with an American flag in their backyard”, would be subject to attack. There was no evidence that these claims were real, though, so it was not publicized. The leaking of this rumor caused a panic, but LoSacco ensured concerned citizens in the meeting that there is nothing to support its legitimacy.
Not everyone is reassured by the contents of the livestream, however. One viewer pointed out that the diversity of the police force means little in regard to its morality - in an area as diverse as East Brunswick, a diverse police force is to be expected. Several people in the comments of the livestream also expressed concerns with a recent anti-protestor social media posting, institutionalized white supremacy, and the overall view of the EBPD. Due to the livestream format, those questions could not be answered by the participants. The original posting for the online event included a request for questions by viewers.
The EBHRC has promoted a second interview with Mayor Cohen and Chief LoSacco in a ZOOM format.