CEDAR GROVE, NJ — Nearly 400 people recently attended the Fairfield Police Foundation’s (FPF) second annual casino night and gala at il Tulipano in Cedar Grove in support of the FPF’s mission to supply necessary funds for the Fairfield Police Department to purchase equipment, training programs, services and more.

Since its inception in 2017, FPF President Michael Sapienza and police liaison Officer RJ Casendino said the private, non-profit organization has raised $400,000 to assist with funding that the municipal budget could not provide.

Some of the purchases made through this funding has included the department’s first motorcycle; four solar-powered and permanently mounted speed-measuring devices on Sand Road to control speeding; and equipment needed to monitor license plates along the Rt. 46 corridor to aid police in locating vehicles that have been stolen or are being driven by individuals with expired licenses or active warrants.

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During last week’s event, Sapienza thanked the many people who help with the foundation, and Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna thanked the governing body for its support.

“It always has been the goal of the department not only to police our community, but to truly be a part of it so events like this could happen,” said Manna, who also acknowledged the hard work of Officer Casendino as well as Greg Polimeni and staff members from il Tulipano; Paul Lebo for providing DJ services; Anthony Devincenzo of Artistic Signs; the Infernos; and Lisa Marie Latino-Falbo of Long Shot Productions.

Also honored during the event were Stephen Filipow, Majd Abboud, Frank Oliver, John Seragusa and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who were named as this year’s award recipients.

“A few years back, the department instituted a community policing partnership award that recognizes individuals or businesses that help us with our community policing mission,” said Manna, noting that the recipients were unaware that they were being recognized.

Filipow is one of the founders of the West Essex Parents for Autism Awareness and is a past Grand Knight of the Fairfield Council of the Knights of Columbus. In addition to presenting Filipow with the Community Partnership Award, Manna and the FPF also made a donation to the Knights of Columbus on his behalf.

Majd Abboud, general manager of the Fairfield Hampton Inn, is also a member of the police foundation’s board of directors.

“[Abboud] continually provides the department with all kinds of logistical support to include rooms for our department meetings and training, as well as hotel rooms for our officers to use during flood emergencies and rooms from which we have conducted countless human trafficking and prostitution investigations with the FBI and prosecutor’s office,” said Manna.  

Oliver, owner of the Franklin Steakhouse, provides gift cards, food and monetary donations to local first responders, civic groups and a variety of charitable organizations.

“Oliver is a co-sponsor of the department’s golf outing that has raised countless dollars for Ariana’s Angels, a charity that benefits an autistic child,” said Manna. “He provides turkeys to a variety of Paterson area food banks at Thanksgiving and organizes an annual toy drive at his restaurant to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital during the Christmas season, and every December, you can find him roasting the chestnuts he donates to the Fairfield’s Winter Wonderland.”

Seragusa, also member of the FPF board of directors and a supporter of all area police departments, was awarded a “Silver Life” membership to the West Essex PBA Local 81.

Manna mentioned that to many people, Seragusa is “simply known as ‘the Gooch’” and that he is “truly one of the most generous people” he has ever met.

“[Seragusa] is always willing to give his time and finances in order to provide our police foundation and our officers with anything they may need,” said Manna. “He works tirelessly to help assure that all the events we have are successful.”

The Chief’s Recognition Award went to Grewal, New Jersey’s 61st Attorney General, a former resident of Bates Drive in Fairfield and a graduate of West Essex High School.

After earning his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and receiving his law degree from William and Mary Law School, Grewal served as chief of the economic crimes unit at the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. He was nominated by Governor Chris Christie and became the Bergen County prosecutor.

When he was named New Jersey Attorney General in January 2018, Grewal also became the first Sikh-American attorney general in the history of the United States.

“I am a product of my environment and that’s why I am here,” said Grewal, who added that he believes his childhood in Fairfield, as a student of Stevenson School and West Essex High School, helped him to succeed.

Some of the various community members who attended the event in support of their local police included the following:

Fran and Louis Contaldi, owners of Ahead Lawn and Landscaping in Cedar Grove;

Joe Matarazzo of D&L Paving, who said he comes every year because it’s “an awesome event, and it raises a lot of money to help the police department.”

Tony Pompei, Director of Fairfield Recreation;

Robert and Janice Corsilli, representing Lattimar Realty, who said it was “a great way to support our community and to recognize the Fairfield Police Department”;

Frank and Melissa Mirabile, residents and owners of Allerton Pest Control; and

Fellow residents Anthony and Tracy Ripa, who said the event was “a great way to give back to the community.”