At Murphy Briefing, Callahan Makes Case for ‘Strong’ Community Policing in NJ


Phil Murphy’s briefing today was designed to highlight good news about various reopenings coming in June, including child care centers, summer camps and indoor religious services.

And that’s how things began. Sheila Oliver, the lieutenant governor, and Christine Norbut Beyer, the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, were on hand to talk about the good news.

But “real” news can get in the way, even if it’s coming from halfway across the country. That was the case today.

Murphy deviated from the main point of the briefing to speak about the “painful” images coming from Minnesota.

“George Floyd should be alive today,” the governor said, calling it a matter of human dignity.

And he lamented two separate, but related, points. One is that the stain of racism remains. The other was that there is nothing new about African-American men dying in police custody. He said past events
should have been “wake-up calls” for the country, but that things didn’t turn out that way.

Pat Callahan, the head of the State Police, said police shooting deaths and deaths of individuals in police custody, which was the case in Minneapolis, require complex and intense investigation.

Callahan also said that since the pandemic began, he’e been having daily “prayer calls” with clergy of all faiths across the state. And since the incident in question, Callahan said. “The pain in the call has been disturbing.”

If there was any upbeat news emerging from the incident, Callahan suggested it might be the strong community policing being done in New Jersey. Community policing, in short, is when local police officers make an effort to mingle with and to get to know people living in the community.

Because of that, Callahan said New Jersey police officials many times meet community leaders not across yellow crime scene tape, but at church functions and barbecues.

As for the reopenings, the governor said child care centers can open June 15, youth sport practices on June 22 and day camps on July 6.

Indoor church services can resume on June 12.

Other restrictions remain in place. Today’s data put the number of COVID-19 cases in the state at 158, 844 and the deaths at 11,531.

Nonetheless, Murphy hinted at more reopenings to be announced next week.

While the governor insists he is guided only by data, many Republicans and even some Democrats have been pushing for a quicker reopening of the economy.

And to that, Murphy offered a valid, but often overlooked, point. Reopening businesses in themselves is not the entire story.

Restaurants, salons, health clubs – you name it – can all reopen, but there are no guarantees all the customers they need will show up. As the governor put it today, the public will only patronize businesses
if they’re confident with the health structure and regulations in place.

Many critics of the governor, getting carried away with their own rhetoric, call him a “king,” a “tyrant” and suggest we are living in “1984.”

Well, a king could order the public to go out to eat, or to get a hair cut. A governor can’t. Let’s keep that in mind.

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