CALDWELL, NJ — In light of recent tragedies involving police on a national level, local police departments, including Montclair, Caldwell, North Caldwell and surrounding areas have received an outpouring of support from residents, houses of worship and other organizations.
Mike Guerriero, owner of Gelotti Ice cream in Montclair and Caldwell and Vice President of the Caldwell Merchants, is organizing a Caldwell Night Out on Aug. 2 during which Gelotti will provide free ice cream and Italian Ice in Caldwell, Montclair, and Fairfield to all the first responders, police, and fire fighters to give thanks for their service. The Montclair Police Department will host National Night Out in Montclair on August 2 and local businesses have been invited to also participate in the event.
“We encourage all residents and families to come out and build connections,” said Guerriero. “We coordinated and started the event in Caldwell ourselves to connect our community with the people who serve us. A little ice cream can go a big way if we can build connections that prevent violence, and situations that we too often see as commonplace in American Society.”
Guerriero encouraged residents to come down during this time and interact with the people who serve the community on a daily basis.
Montclair Deputy Chief Tracy Frazzano told TAP into Montclair that the generous contributions of community groups helped to pay for the travel of Montclair officers to attend the funerals of fellow Dallas officers nearly two weeks ago. While Jet Blue paid for the airfare of two officers of the Honor Guard, the other tickets and travel arrangements were paid for by local Montclair organizations.
Frazzano said in an earlier interview, "Thank God we had the support from the community, so that we can participate in something like this."
Caldwell Police Chief James Bongiorno reported similar experiences at his department and said that he and his fellow officers could not be more grateful to the Caldwell community in light of recent tragedies. Along the streets of the borough, residents have recently taken the time to stop and thank local police—offering to buy them coffee and other gestures. Bongiorno said that he personally feels “lucky and blessed” to live in a town like Caldwell.
"While we are extremely saddened by the events that have occurred to our law enforcement brothers in both Dallas and baton Rouge, it has been extremely gratifying to the officers of our department that so many in our community have reached out to us, by either word or deed, to let us know that they appreciate our efforts at keeping them safe and helping them in their hours of need,” said Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna. “We will continue to strive to serve all our citizens with the dignity and respect that all members of the public deserves."
“We have had several members of our community walk in to headquarters and ask if there was anything they could do to help support us—offering to make donations for equipment and things of that nature,” said North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer. “But most importantly, they came to say thank you and asked us to be safe, which means the most to us.”
Livingston Police Chief Craig Handschuch said that recent incidents have unfortunately driven a wedge between law enforcement officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect. In order to be highly effective, he said, all law enforcement agencies must assure that there is a true partnership with the citizens and communities they serve.
“Protecting our citizens would be impossible without the devotion and hard work of all the dedicated members of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to help keep their communities safe,” said Handschuch. “Hopefully we will see new partnerships forged and bridges built to strengthen these bonds by further educating the public and providing advanced training to the law enforcement community.”
West Orange Police Chief James Abbott said that following recent events, the West Orange Police Department received gift baskets, food and other contributions of thanks from both the houses of worship and private citizens in the area.
Livingston Mayor Al Anthony reiterated the importance of continuing to show the local police that they have the support of the community.
“Our police always need our support, but now more than ever,” said Anthony. “Maybe the craziness going on in the world today will hopefully bring us all together to find a solution to the hatred and disrespect we are seeing for human life right now and our public servants in particular.”
Editor's Note: Natalie Heard Hackett contributed to this article.