FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Newark, NJ – May 17, 2011 – Mayor Cory A. Booker, Members of the Municipal Council, Acting Police Director Samuel A. DeMaio and other dignitaries saluted the valor of Newark Police Officers who have distinguished themselves in the line of duty by presenting awards for bravery and merit during a Municipal Council Chamber ceremony today. The ceremony is part of the City of Newark’s observance of National Police Week, which was originally created by federal legislation and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, as National Peace Officer Day. Since then, the week of May 15 is observed each year to honor all law enforcement officers.
“Newark Police Officers are in their job for a profound purpose, to protect and serve our residents. They are the highest exemplars of courage, strength, duty, and purpose. They are subject to scorn until people call 911 to reach a police officer. They seek no recognition. The officers that we are recognizing today are deserving recipients of our respect, honor, and gratitude,” said Mayor Booker.
During the ceremony, Mayor Booker and Acting Director DeMaio presented medals for valor and efficiency to police officers, civilian employees, and community members that supported the police. Officers were honored for standing off would-be armed carjackers, weapons seizures, and capturing armed felons. Also commended were the Emergency Service Unit and the 2nd Bureau Special Enforcement Unit. Selected for the Civilian Employee Recognition Award was Information Processing Manager Peter Lutz. Bishop Cleveland Blash received the Citizen Community Service Award. A total of 26 awards were presented at the ceremony.
“The men and women of this agency perform their duties relentlessly day in and day out, oftentimes going above and beyond the call of duty to protect Newark’s citizens. It’s a great day when we can recognize officers for a job well done and thank them for their undying willingness to keep this city safe from harm’s way,” said Police Director Samuel A. DeMaio. “I salute these officers for a job well done and look forward to recognizing others in the future. We will continue the charge to keep our city safe while improving the quality of life here for residents and visitors alike,” he added.
“I want to congratulate all of our police officers who are being honored today and to express our appreciation for the entire Newark Police Department,” said Municipal Council Vice President Anibal Ramos, Jr., speaking for his colleagues on the Council. “When it comes to the Newark Police Department, we stand in solidarity in giving them our support and gratitude.” He was joined in attendance by Council President Donald M. Payne, Jr., Council Members-at-Large Mildred Crump and Carlos Gonzalez, and Central Ward Council Member Darrin Sharif.
At the awards ceremony, Lt. Donald Robertella, the master of ceremonies, read out the citations for each officer honored, who then received his or her medal and a framed certificate from Director DeMaio.
Sgt. Leslie Jones from the Police Clergy Alliance offered the invocation and benediction. Also in attendance were Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, First Assistant Prosecutor Robert Laurino, and Essex County Chief of Detectives Anthony Ambrose.
This year’s 2011 “Class A” award which is the Police Department’s highest honor went to eight police officers who were involved in five separate incidents involving armed suspects. A complete list of awardees and their citations is attached.
Lt. Dennis Sanders, who received the Medal of Honor for shooting an armed suspect who attempted to carjack his personal vehicle, discussed the incident. “It was a life-altering experience for anyone to face that situation,” said the 21-year-veteran. “But sometimes the good guys prevail. I never had to face that kind of situation before, but my training prepared me for it.
“I loved the ceremony,” he added. “It shows that the community and our dignitaries care about the citizens and the police.”
“When I heard Lt. Robertella read the details of what happened that day, it brought memories back of what happened,” said Officer Latasha Merritt, who received the Medal of Honor. “And then it was a surreal feeling when I heard my name being called to receive the award. I feel honored every day to serve the community as a Newark Police Officer. I hope to be a role model for other young women who choose a career in law enforcement.” She joined the force at age 26. She was honored for shooting an armed suspect who menaced her and her partner with a loaded weapon.
After the Awards Ceremony, Mayor Booker, Acting Director DeMaio and the police officers held a memorial to honor the 50 Newark Police Officers (including one Housing Officer and one Special Police officer) who died in the line of duty during the department’s history, in the City Hall Rotunda.
The names of each of the fallen officers was read in the order they were lost, starting with Officer Maxwell Badgley, killed in 1854. Officer Badgley was not only the first Newark police officer to give his life, but the first in the entire state of New Jersey. The last name read was Sgt. Tommaso Popolizio, who was killed during the pursuit of a fleeing suspect in March 2007. A lone bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Retired Newark Police Sergeant Daniel Santos, who is the curator of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 12’s Police Museum, read the names and said, “All across the country last week, police agencies honored their fallen officers, those individuals that have made the ultimate sacrifice. This practice has been performed since 1962. So, it’s only fitting to gather here once again and honor members of our family, fallen officers of the Newark Police Department. In these trying times, both socially as well as economically, officers are being asked to do more – even if it means – with less. They continue to do just that, without hesitation because they swore an oath to protect and serve. Their valor then, as well as the valor of our officers today, gives us all hope for the future.”
Under the Booker Administration, the City of Newark’s Police Department has formed several new partnerships and launched numerous new initiatives and policing strategies. Since it was formed in 2006, the Newark Police Foundation has raised thousands of dollars in philanthropic donations to support the purchase and deployment of new crime-fighting technology, including the deployment of more than one hundred wireless video surveillance cameras, a sonic gunshot detection system and a new state-of-the-art emergency services vehicle.
In 2006, the Newark Police Department also launched the operation of the City’s “Crime Stopper” and “Gun Stopper” anonymous tip lines. Since the program began police have received more than 4,100 calls and paid out more than $84,000 in reward money resulting in more than 260 arrests, the recovery of 106 guns, and the confiscation of more than $250,000 worth of illegal narcotics. The impact of these initiatives has also been seen in Newark experiencing an overall 21 percent crime rate reduction since 2006, with a 46 percent drop in shootings. In 2008, Newark gained national recognition for leading the nation in violent crime reduction and in March 2010, the City saw its first homicide-free calendar month since 1966. The Police Department also received a $500,000 grant from the state Attorney General’s Office in April 2011, to purchase crime-fighting technology. For more information about the Newark Police Foundation please visit their website at www.newarkpolicefoundation.org.
The Newark Police Department is the largest municipal police department in the State of New Jersey with more than 1,100 police officers in the force. This September, the Police Department is scheduled to open its new 5th Precinct in the South Ward, a state-of-the-art 75,000-square-foot facility that will include the City’s Office of Emergency Management.