Career law enforcement officer and United States Marine John C. Arnold – son of a Newark Police Officer – wants to be the first African American sheriff of Essex County.
“We know we can do better policing in our communities,” Arnold told InsiderNJ this afternoon in a wide-ranging interview.
The off-the-line, line C candidate in the June. 8th Democratic Primary recalled accompanying then-South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka to a county commissioners’ meeting where Baraka pleaded with elected officials to deliver resources into the south ward of Newark. Politics, said Arnold, always played a role in resource distribution.
Through the years, “I would see the sheriff’s department in the north ward but not the central, west and central,” said the candidate. “You always take care of home. You don’t disregard other areas but the sheriff’s office is not visible in [important locations within the Newark community].”
Arnold is running against incumbent Sheriff Armando Fontoura, the longest-serving sheriff in Essex County history, who first took on the job in 1990.
Arnold said the deep divide between the African-American community and law enforcement makes now the right time for Essex to elect a new sheriff.
“If they saw John Arnold, who grew up in the City of Newark … that’s an inspiration for a lot of men and women,” the candidate told InsiderNJ. “i know the issues and the conversations, and when it comes to law enforcement – it’s overdue.”
The interview includes Arnold’s plans for the sheriff’s office, his strategy to win, his thoughts on violent crime prevention, community policing, marijuana legalization, mental health, training, and police procedure.
“Many officers condemned the actions of Derek Chauvin,” he said of the police officer tried for the killing of George Floyd. “We don’t even consider him an officer. He tarnished the badge. They can make up any excuse they want but the bottom line is [Mr. Floyd] was killed by Derek Chauvin. I’ve been in some scuffles with bad guys but once the cuffs got on there was no need to do anything to that individual. What we saw on television was wrong.”
He also talked about the police killing of Daunte Wright.
“She [the former officer] got her taser confused with her gun,” Arnold said. “There is a difference between holding a taser and a gun. In that that tape… I saw a lot of infractions. It’s not the officer’s fault. It’s leadership fault. To say ‘taser, taser,’ and you don’t know you have your service weapon out. She almost shot her partner. The way to handle that is to say, ‘listen, he got away. We know where he is. We’ll get him. We’ll write a summons.’ There is no need to get into a conflict such as that. For those reasons right there, Mr. Wright is dead.”
Closer to home, Arnold said he sees a large disconnect between the Essex Sheriff’s Office and the community in which he lives. “I’m in the community,” he said. “I don’t see officers adhering to new policies. [Also] we have to start addressing the [mental health] of our officers. This is the only career where we send people into the community with the authorization to take a human life. Officers are masters at holding things inside. There has to be release and unfortunately people in our community are the release. We need to address this.
“Can a George Floyd happen here? Absolutely,” he added.
Can, and has.
The full interview is below.
Arnold served as Newark’s Deputy Police Director from 2014 to 2016. In that role, he initiated a Special Enforcement / Intelligence Unit which investigated major crimes within Newark, spearheaded the Police Department’s Office of Clergy and Community Affairs which was responsible for building “foundational” relationships between the community and the department; and headed the Legal Affairs/Advocate Unit and the Situational Awareness and Special Activities Unit. He was also a member of the Selection and Advisory Committee for the court-ordered Federal Police Monitor. There, he contributed to the planning and restructuring of the department with the US Department of Justice for compliance with the court order.
Prior to that, Arnold served in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office from 1987 to 2010, rising through the ranks from County Detective to Captain of Detectives, commanding a number of high profile divisions including Homicide, Gang and Narcotics (VIPER) Unit, Child Abuse Unit and the Adult Trials Unit respectively. While Commander of the Homicide Division, they achieved an 85 percent arrest rate and a 65 percent conviction rate under his leadership.
He began his career in law enforcement in 1985 as a police officer for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
After graduating from Newark magnet school Science High, Arnold joined and served his country proudly and honorably in the United States Marine Corps and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and Theology from the JD Price Theological Bible College, in Orlando, Florida.