WAYNE, NJ - Last week, Dawn Kumar, a member of the Wayne Board of Education dialed-in to the Wayne Town Council meeting and laid out a list of issues surrounding Mayor Chris Vergano and the Wayne Police Department over "Public Health Concerns."  Vergano's reply to Kumar did not defend any of the accusations, instead he defended the Wayne PD.  

Wayne Chief of Police Jack McNiff was also upset with the comments made by Kumar, and has written a letter to the residents of Wayne to address her remarks. 

McNiff asked that this be published in its entirety.

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Dear Wayne Residents:

On July 15, 2020, a Wayne Township Board of Education Trustee spoke at the public portion of a Wayne Township Council Meeting as, quote, “a private citizen.”  She started her statements as follows: “I’m here to express my concern over the Mayor’s and the Police Department’s response to Covid-19.”  As your Chief of Police, I was immediately taken aback by this statement, for reasons I’ll explain.  She then stated that she witnessed a police officer not properly wearing a face mask in Costco, as well as the police department’s alleged failure to prevent high school students from gathering on the Wayne Valley High School Field.  After making other complaints about Mayor Vergano, she ended her statement with the following:   “These examples show a Mayor who doesn’t care about public health, despite quoting Covid-19 death totals, and a police department who is not serving and protecting the community.”

The Wayne Police Department is, by no means, a perfect entity.  We are committed to excellence in policing, and this can only be accomplished through constant introspection, training, and discipline.  Should the Wayne Police Officer in Costco have been wearing a mask properly? Absolutely, but without more information on whether or not that officer was responding to a specific call or taking a drink of water in the 95 degree heat, I am unable to make a determination.  However, the hard work and amazing reputations of 114 men and women should not be minimized and marred by such hasty generalizations.

Mayor Chris Vergano, Business Administrator Neal Bellet, Health Department Chief Maryann Orapello, OEM Coordinator Dan Daly, my command staff, and I have worked tirelessly around the clock since March to ensure that our first responders and the township was fully prepared to combat this pandemic.  This also includes newly Acting Business Administrator Talib Aquil, who we are proud to have on our team.  Our police department, despite the above accusations of being ill-equipped to respond to the pandemic, has proven quite the opposite. Wayne PD has led the area in acquisition of personal protective equipment, disinfecting techniques of our headquarters, vehicles, equipment, and proper training of our AMAZING POLICE OFFICERS so that we can provide our valued taxpayers with the services they deserve.  What did my amazing police officers do in return? Apparently, this elected official never bothered to ask me, so now I’m compelled to tell you.

Since March 1, 2020, Wayne Police Officers have responded to approximately 10,000 Covid-19 related calls for service.  Responding to these calls required a total of 11,000 Wayne Police resources, putting all of our 114 officers at risk of being exposed to Covid-19 on multiple occasions.  They have heroically performed first aid and CPR on many Covid-19 patients who live in our township, some of whom were our own police family members.  This required many of these officers to undergo quarantine and subsequently put their children, spouses, and families at risk.  Without hesitation, these officers performed their sworn duties, regardless of the health implications it could have on themselves and their families.  They never hesitated, because they were properly trained and equipped to do the job all of our residents deserve and should expect. 

When the entire tri-state area was told to shut down, the Wayne Police Department showed up! During the pandemic, Wayne Police Officers saved a man’s life and his severed leg after a horrific motor vehicle crash, by utilizing a combat tourniquet to stop the bleeding.  Several weeks later, they did the same with a motorcycle crash victim, saving his life.  Despite the pandemic, our officers have continued to arrest burglars, car thieves, drug dealers, and fraudsters.  We’ve been spit on, assaulted, and contaminated with the blood of others during this pandemic.  We’ve buried our parents and loved-ones because of Covid-19.  Some of us became sick, but that didn’t stop the PD from giving hundreds of children (and many adults) birthday parades to make their days special.  How quickly some forget…

Make no mistake, this is our job, and we are proud and honored to do it!  Each and every resident and visitor to this town deserves nothing less.   

Let me make something explicitly clear.  The Wayne Police Department is sworn to uphold the Constitutional Rights of each and every resident and visitor to this township.  The Wayne Police Department is committed to the Executive Orders of Governor Murphy.  I am unaware of any complaints of trespassing that were reported by the Wayne BOE or reports of field usage without a permit. However, I will say that our high school students are entitled to the same Constitutional Rights as those who attended any other rallies or marches that have occurred in Wayne.      

The Constitutional Rights of all Wayne residents and visitors will be enforced equally and unequivocally!

I would like to take this opportunity to commend several people.  First and foremost are the amazing men and women of the Wayne Police Department, both sworn and civilian, who have been selflessly protecting the people who live in and visit Wayne.  I consider each, and every one of you a hero!  You deserve no other title and you will always have my complete and full support!   

I would also like to thank Mayor Chris Vergano, B.A. Neal Bellet, and Acting B.A. Talib Aquil for your constant support of the men and women of this police department.  Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic, you have worked tirelessly to ensure that all of our first responders have the proper equipment and resources to keep the people of Wayne safe. These examples show a Mayor and Township Administration who are not just committed to public health, but will stop at nothing to get the job done and keep people safe!

The statements and innuendos of this BOE Trustee are ill-informed and have politically-driven undertones.  I’m certain she will apologize to the amazing women and men on the front lines of this police department, once she has all the facts.  Stating that the Wayne Police Department is not serving and protecting this community is absolutely unacceptable, and I refuse to remain silent!

Regardless, the men and women of the Wayne Police Department will always remain steadfast in the mission, knowing that our amazing residents love and support us, as we do them!

Thank you Wayne for your continued support, and God Bless the Wayne Township Family!

Sincerely, Jack McNiff - Wayne Township Chief of Police