SOMERSET, NJ – Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt announced that the FTPD will launch a community policing unit in August composed of four officers and a sergeant. The unit also includes the opening of a community relations bureau at 935 Hamilton St. 

Pruitt made the announcement at the end of a broader statement on behalf of the council addressing questions from the public about police interactions with residents, particularly Franklin’s Black community. 

“As millions of citizens across our country are moved to collective action to protest the deep-rooted institutionalized racism in this country that has resulted in the deaths of so many African Americans, it seems the nation as a whole is ready to address the problems with real systemic change and so are we here in Franklin Township,” Pruitt said. “We have always prided ourselves on exemplifying the type of diversity and equal opportunity that so many other communities continue to strive for.” 

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According to the councilwoman, Police Director Quovella Spruill is leading a review of department procedures that include “training and response measures” and is looking to the community for input “before any final decisions are made in regard to the public safety department.” 

“It is only in this way that we can best ensure that these efforts will truly meet the needs of our community,” she said.

At the same time, Pruitt stressed that these changes will take time, saying that it’s an “ongoing effort for months and years to come.” 

The council also adopted new rules last night that expand the eligibility criteria for officers seeking promotion to the Franklin Police Department’s highest ranks after introducing the changes last month.

The ordinance allows more officers to be eligible for the rank of captain, expanding the requirements from two years served as a lieutenant to include a minimum of 10 years with FTPD and five years at the rank of sergeant. Experience requirements for lieutenant and sergeant remain unchanged. The department will also accept written test results for two years instead of one. 

During his comments, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker – with agreement from Mayor Phillip Kramer and Councilwoman Kimberly Francois – dealt a blow to one of Franklin’s most beloved events: Franklin Day is likely to be canceled this year, citing the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Franklin Day Festival is scheduled for two months from right about now and right now the state of New Jersey is limited to 500 people in public gatherings outdoors and my anticipation is that that number will not increase dramatically between now and September,” he said. 

After citing the large amount of coordination that goes on behind the scenes with the festival’s vendors, Vornlocker said he didn’t want to string them along and that it would be unfair for the township “to try to schedule it knowing what we now know about the course of this virus.” 

However, residents worried they may miss one of the event’s biggest hits – the construction permit amnesty program – have nothing to fear. Vornlocker said they plan to provide the amnesty program to residents throughout the week of Oct. 5, with more details to come. This year’s program will line up with the 45th anniversary of the adoption of the uniform construction code in New Jersey. 

“We’ll make it happen so that everyone who has done construction work – and perhaps they’ve been doing construction work on their home while they’ve been quarantined over the last three months and they didn’t get permits and now they’ll have an opportunity to have amnesty and get some forgiveness and get their houses up to code.”

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