PATERSON, NJ - In front of the Paterson Public Safety Complex, a memorial to fallen police officers stands as a permanent reminder of the dangers associated with wearing a badge, especially in the current climate in which, as Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora said, “there is a resentment towards law enforcement.”
On Monday, the giant statue depicting a law enforcement official kneeling in prayer, served as a poignant backdrop as 20 men and women took an oath that now begins their six-month journey to becoming members of the Paterson Police Department, and hopefully, as several told TAPinto Paterson, an even longer career of keeping their city safe.
For Bavennia Franklin the memorial holds special meaning, as it bears the name of her brother Tyron. On January 7, 2007, Paterson Police Officer Tyron Franklin, with only eight months on the job, was murdered after his killer recognized him as an off-duty police officer during a botched robbery attempt.
A freshman in high school at the time, that was the day her “whole world changed.” With one act of senseless violence she lost her best friend and became an only child. The career ahead of her is about much more than holding up her right hand and pledging to protect and serve, Bavennia said. “It’s about having the right mindset, and a supportive family around me,” nodding affectionately to her husband who stood proudly at her side.
Bavennia is confident that she has “what it takes and the compassion that’s needed,” to carry on her brother’s name. Finding out that she’ll have the chance to wear her own fallen hero’s badge number, 4637, she said, was a “surprise” and will serve as a constant reminder of her desire to “make him proud.”
“He will be with me everywhere I go,” Bavennia offered.
While unique in her story of firsthand knowledge of the risk of loss that comes with the job, Bavennia was far from alone in her desire to use her badge and uniform to bridge the divide that continues to show itself between law enforcement and the community.
John Pepe is hopeful that he will play a role in “mending the relationship on the streets,” that has become more pronounced in past weeks as demonstrators have made strong calls for justice and equality, and some have suggested that defunding the police is the best way forward in strengthening communities. “It shouldn’t be them versus us,” Pepe said. “We are all in this together.”
Several of the dignitaries present spoke of the important role families play in the careers of police officers, but it was the loved ones on hand that will put those words into action.
Saying she was “super proud” of Pepe was Jimena Nunez, his girlfriend, who shared that she knows he would be great at the job because it’s “his calling.” With experience as a volunteer firefighter, and ten years in the military, including two tours of duty overseas with the Air Force, Nunez is confident that Pepe is “more than qualified.”
Also supporting a loved one was Carla Quia, whose husband, James Prall, with eight years of military service, was set to begin his official police training. “This is a tough town, but he wants to make it a better place,” she said before adding that together they want to see Paterson change so that their daughter can be safe in the city she was born in.”
While Quia stood on Prall’s right, his “proud mom” stood on his left. “I know my son has what it takes, just like every other cadet here,” she said. “They are all brave to step up.”
As for her own concerns for her son’s safety Kathleen Prall said that through her son’s service she also “served through eight years in the military.” It’s not just the men and women that put on the badge that are giving to the community she said. “For family members it’s also a lifetime of service.”
Saying he would offer his own congratulations when they joined back together in six months, after their successful completion of the police academy, Mayor Andre Sayegh commended them for agreeing to answering the call to “pursue justice for all.”
Lamenting a recent outbreak of gun violence not just in Paterson but in cities across the US, as well as continuing to face the COVID-19 public health crisis, Sayegh told the recruits that “we are fighting on many fronts.”
“If we fight together,” he said injecting a positive tone, “we will win.”
Sworn in on Monday were:
- Ahmad Awawdeh
- Liza Bernard
- Rory Buchanan Jr.
- Julian Burks
- Mauricio Chivara
- Anthony Collucci
- Amaris Colon
- Bavennia Franklin
- Jordan Henry
- Juston Juanca
- Anthony Iacovo
- Kenneth Kerwin
- Jermaine Murray
- Julio Para
- John Pepe
- James Prall
- Hugo Rodriguez
- Mesia Scott
- Alendria Tejada
- Joseph Tuminelli
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