FLEMINGTON, NJ - Over the next five or more months, Flemington Borough Police Chief Jerry Rotella – along with two council members, five borough residents and a local church pastor – will be looking at the Flemington Police Department’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to improve already strong community relations.
At its July 13 meeting, the borough council unanimously passed a resolution forming the Ad-Hoc Citizens Working Committee, which has no budget and no authority, but is simply a mission-driven discussion group.
The chief is looking at this committee as a way to move ahead.
“I look forward to speaking with the Ad-Hoc committee,” he said. “It will be nice to break down the stereotypes and myths people often associate with policing and police officers. I'm hoping to inform and have discussions with this committee about policing in New Jersey and specifically in their community, the Borough of Flemington. I also look forward to hearing from the committee for informed ideas and fresh perspectives so we can grow and strengthen relations with all the residents and business owners of Flemington.”
Prior to the council vote, Mayor Betsy Driver explained that this is not a Citizen Review Board and the police will not be answering to the committee. She said she had heard from many residents who had questions about the police department and its procedures.
Rotella will be the main contact within the department. He may also assign other officers to participate as needed.
Driver said the genesis of this idea came from inquiries about the police department from residents, at a time when police departments across the country are being scrutinized.
“Our local police are already very transparent,” she said, “so this group will look at changing the message if need be, by looking at what the police are doing great and what they’re not doing great.”
The resident committee members are a diverse group. The mayor said a lot of thought went into choosing the individuals she named – Dave Norton, a local photographer; Malik Johnston Jr., a student; Lamar Brown, a new Flemington resident; Nadia Quraishi, an Islamic Center member; Amy Torres-Valverde, a high school student; and Pastor Ben Lee, the pastor at the United Methodist Church on Main Street.
The council liaisons, Jessica Hand and Jeremy Long, are charged with writing a report for presentation to the rest of the governing body by year’s end, which is when the committee will disband.
“I think this is a great fit for our community,” council president Caitlin Giles-McCormick said.