MAPLEWOOD, NJ — During the Township Committee's marathon meeting Tuesday night, Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis took the opportunity to publicly apologize for comments he made during the Public Safety Committee meeting last week.
The July 16 meeting centered around a fact-finding discussion of the role of Maplewood’s Police Auxiliary — and whether the unit should remain armed — between Committee Member Greg Lembrich, who is chair of Public Safety, Mayor Frank McGehee, and Dafis, with Maplewood Police Chief Jim DeVaul and Police Auxiliary Chief Joe Yacenda.
During the discussion it was mentioned that some Auxiliary members were on duty the night of July 5, 2016. Dafis misheard and thought that members of the volunteer unit were actively involved with the now infamous bias incident in which Maplewood Police officers herded teens toward Irvington although they lived in the opposite direction. He responded later, at 2:13:30 in the recording, “We can’t escape our past, and...to know that some of our Auxiliary officers were directly involved in the extremely racial incident against our youth, in our community, not too long ago, that everyone knows about. I don’t see how we move forward as this, in good conscience, to say oh yeah, let’s arm them, let’s keep them armed, let’s give them body cams, and let’s give them everything they want. Let’s militarize these f****rs. Let’s do it all.”
By Tuesday’s Committee meeting Dafis was chastened, and offered an apology “to the community at large,” which appears at 26:35 in the recording. He admitted that “regretfully, I connected them to the incident…. I didn’t listen. I misheard them and misrepresented what they said.”
Noting that he was disappointed in himself, he offered that “[I] profusely and sincerely apologize to everyone.” He said he reached out to members of the Auxiliary by phone and by email to apologize as well.
“I’m committed to doing better,” Dafis said, “listening, being more present, and generally more careful in our future deliberations.”
Auxiliary Chief Yacenda was forgiving when he spoke later during the Township Committee meeting. “I greatly appreciate your apology and the information about you misunderstanding and misspeaking on last Thursday night’s” meeting, he said, although he worried that apology would not be heard as loud on social media as the gaffe had been.
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