To all East Brunswick residents and all of our neighbors,
If a pandemic of epic proportions were not enough, now we have become first-hand witnesses to the ugly underbelly of racism in our country. The 24-hour news cycle, to which we have become accustomed, mixed with a stay at home order, provides ample opportunity for me to replay each painstaking frame of America at its worst.
When I sit back to gather my thoughts and try to reach out for some kind of understanding, I realize that calmer minds need to prevail as we strain trying to hit the reset button. First, those who are out rioting by setting fires and looting businesses do not represent the majority of Americans who have a legitimate gripe. It actually prevents those of us who should be called to action from recognizing a real fault line in our country. We have a true problem with an inherently unfair criminal justice system that disproportionately treats African Americans (mostly males) in a most unfair and discriminatory manner. We see this in criminal cases, wrongful arrests, jail time, plea deals and access to fair representation. At its extreme, we see events such as the killing of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. This must be addressed!!!
At the same time, we need to recognize that bad behavior by some members of our law enforcement community should not cast a shadow on all of our officers. Most police officers commit their lives to providing safety and protection to the community they serve. They work hard committing to a brotherhood of fellow men and women upholding the highest standards to which we can aspire. Most law enforcement officers look to the events of the past week, and all the others that preceded Minneapolis, with disgust.
My mother, may she rest in peace, used to always tell me that I should never judge another until I have walked in their shoes. As a father with a 30-year-old son, I take for granted that my son can go out for a safe jog, walk in to a store without someone thinking that he is a thief, get caught speeding and not end up arrested and certainly never fear that a chance encounter with law enforcement ends up with me holding nothing but a picture for memories. But for the vast majority of African American men who have sons, like I do, that is the reality they must live with here, in the United States, today in 2020. We need to fix this!
Having now spent over three years as the Mayor of East Brunswick, I can tell you that I have a very close relationship with the Police Department that services our township. I know that there is a code of conduct and a very high standard that these officers must uphold. We spend a great deal of time being extremely selective in the search for law enforcement professionals. These are dedicated folks that swear their lives to our community. And despite the standards, continuing education, added training, simulation exercises and updated protocols, we are all fallible. Being a surgeon myself, gives me a fraction of an inkling of what it must be like to make split second, life-altering decisions.
So how do we begin to bridge the gap? How do we get to a place where everyone enjoys the safety, security, and the “dream” of a more perfect union? Well, it first starts with recognizing the problem. And then it requires dialogue. And we intend to start that right here in East Brunswick.
The East Brunswick Human Relations Council (EBHRC) is offering an evening to discuss the events of the past week with Chief Frank LoSacco and myself. This is part of their ongoing Coffee and Conversation Series, which is meant to discuss topics in a way that leads to mutual respect and greater understanding of other cultures, ethnicities, and religions. At this time, I believe that the community should understand the mission, philosophy, procedures and protocols employed by our EBPD to help prevent events, such a Minneapolis, from happening in our township. This will be aired live and will be taped for later viewing.
Please join us on the East Brunswick Human Relations Council Face Book page on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 7:30pm
Mayor Brad J Cohen