MONTVILLE, NJ – Morris County Sheriff James Gannon spoke at the OneMontville meeting on April 25 about inclusion and the county’s opiate addiction problem.

OneMontville is an organization formed in 2015 due to problems with anti-Semitism within the high school. Parents, school staff and members of clergy comprise its board and membership. Its goal is to eliminate insensitivity to beliefs, behaviors and cultural practices that are associated with an individual’s personal characteristics, according to the organization’s website.

Gannon, speaking at the Montville Township Public Library, described his position as sheriff, which he said is “protector of the community.”

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“My mission is to keep the peace,” he said.

He described how his 338 employees protect the courthouse complex. The sheriff’s office also has a warrant squad to find those who fail to appear in court, conducts sheriff sales, provides police services to Morris County to process crime scenes, houses the bomb squad and SWAT team, and is home to the K9 unit.

Gannon talked about his years prior to his current position working on a joint task force following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I’ve seen hate up close and it just can’t be tolerated,” he said. “But there are people in society who don’t like that people are different.”

Gannon said he grew up in the Boonton neighborhood where he recently spoke at the Islamic Center and he played soccer with the Muslim kids in the neighborhood.

“For me, as a kid growing up, they were my friends,” he said. “We all grew up together. When I was on the campaign trail, a man asked me ‘how do we know you’re going to come back to the mosque?’”

Gannon said he recently had breakfast with 40 religious leaders.

“I think all good plans start with a cup of coffee and a conversation,” he said.

Gannon talked about the importance of diversity, saying the sheriff’s department is not as representative as he would like. He said he wished there were more Asians, African Americans and women in the department while still selecting the right person for the job. He said that when investigating crimes, it’s important to not only speak the language but also understand the culture and how those differences come into play when posing questions.

Gannon also discussed the county’s opiate addiction problem. Montville Township had the highest number of deaths due to heroin and opiates in 2016. Gannon felt that education, enforcement, treatment and reducing the stigma were ways to combat the problem. Gannon said that seminars for doctors and real estate agents, DARE programs and community outreach could help educate the public.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.

During the question and answer period, Gannon praised OneMontville’s efforts to bring the community together, saying, “I think it’s great.” When asked where he thought hate came from he said, “I think it starts with the family. I think sometimes it could be jealousy. Some of it’s the unknown – ‘what are you wearing??’ I think there’s an educational piece. But I also think it’s what’s accepted in the family, and not being accepting of others.”

Gannon praised Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar for her efforts in beginning the organization OneMontville in an effort to promote kindness and acceptance in Montville Township.

For more information on OneMontville and future meetings, click here: OneMontville.