Mayor's Speech - Public Safety Rally, July 2016
We are here this evening because we care… We are here because we love our children and we love each other. We love our city of Plainfield… we are here because we want to develop solutions.
Thank you for coming…
By being here we are the united force needed to create a safer and healthier community.
Over the past few weeks we have grieved at the loss of our most precious resources: our children, our family members, our friends and our neighbors. We feel the pain of the lives lost. And we are asking ourselves: what can we do? How can we replicate the good in our community and stop this loss of lives? How can we create a stronger, safer Plainfield?
We will answer these questions and solve these issues together. My administration has begun to put strategies in place that we believe will create a healthier safer Plainfield. Some will yield immediate outcomes but others will require our patience. But all answers, solutions and strategies require our collective effort. We must do this together. All of us working together, supporting each other, closing our ranks and fighting together will get us the answers we need and help us create solutions for our community.
My heart, and the hearts of all City Officials and members of the Plainfield Police Division goes out to all victims in Plainfield and throughout the nation because of senseless violence. Regardless of the factors that contributed to some of the victim’s deaths, they were parents, sons or daughters, uncles or aunts, brothers or sisters, or friends. All these deaths are unnecessary. .
It is indeed a sad time for us as a nation. This senseless violence needs to stop now. Today we come together to make a change in the City of Plainfield.
Let me immediately address some of the steps we have taken. Our police department working with the Union County Prosecutors office has made an arrest in one of the recent shootings and is actively pursuing another suspect. I will assure everyone, that the Plainfield Police Division and the Union County Homicide Task Force will continue to pursue justice for the victims and their families.
While we cannot currently share all the details of the ongoing investigations, please know that we are working hard and moving swiftly to bring these criminals to justice and have them pay for their crime. It won’t replace the lives lost but our hope is that we can stop them preying on our community. Getting justice will help us all feel a little bit safer. . .
In more long-term preventive measures, our local police force has launched several programs to help us be safer and happier together. We are employing daily real-time analysis of incidents and crimes. We now have rapid deployment to address changes in incidents. We have created division wide community policing.
We are now practicing smart policing, we are using more intelligence led policing and utilizing problem solving policing concepts. The introduction of these practices represents a new management and organizational philosophy. And all the research evidence we have says that these practices will help us have a more efficient and responsive police department.
In other strategic moves cameras have been installed citywide and are constantly being monitored at the police station. This gives us more eyes on the ground at all times, and they have the added advantage of being connected to a private security monitoring system. This works in tandem with increased lighting in neighborhoods all across the city.
In the past two years our police force conducted several successful raids which resulted in the removal of a total of 105 guns from the streets. Twenty of those were confiscated this year. Additionally, 15 new officers have been hired with 2 others set to attend the academy in July. All officers have been vetted and have confirmed residency in Plainfield. We will continue to hire only City residents. We want to make sure that the officers you see patrolling your neighborhoods are people you know and trust.
Since 2014 when my administration introduced these new policing strategies we have seen a drop of 22 percent in violent crime. … Plainfield is safer today than it was 30 months ago when I took office.
Since taking office, I have worked with our law enforcement officers to ensure that officers now provide directed patrol to various areas of the community on a daily basis. We want to make sure they walk and talk to community members. We all live here together. Even our Command Staff including the Director of Public Safety participates on a weekly basis. We are one Plainfield.
We are taking several measures to strengthen ties and create stronger bonds between police and our youth. Summer Fun with Plainfield First Responders was a huge success. The program which ended on July1st allowed many of our youth to discuss various topics such as; What to do when you are stopped by the police, bullying, internet safety, cyber bullying, fire safety and gang awareness.
The program was a great way to learn how to be safe as they move about at home, in school, in the community and online. The program was a collaborative effort between Police, Fire and EMS. This program creates better awareness amongst our youth and strengthens community spirit
The Queen City Mentoring Academy is another fantastic program instituted by the Police Force. The Academy will run from July 18th - August 5th at Hubbard School. This quality program which began in 2014 allows approximately 50 of our young people to be mentored by police officers.
The three week Academy is designed to educate young adults on various aspects of the criminal justice system. Plainfield Police Officers work with the youth to foster a positive bond. The daily interactive sessions include discussions on CPR, first aid, hygiene, and motor vehicle stops/police encounters. There are presentations that include a mock crime scene, team building, and a tour of local and county government facilities.
A variety of weekly field trips assure the youth a healthy combination of fun and learning. The program ends with a graduation ceremony where various awards are presented in the categories of Best Cadet, Most Improved Cadet and Best in Physical Training. In addition to the learning component this program offers invaluable time with good, solid role models.
Recognizing that positive social engagement is also important, the Police Benevolent Association will be hosting a Community Cookout in each ward at a park location. The first one was held on Thursday June 30th, at Hanna Atkins Park. It was well attended and the morale was high amongst residents and the officers.
On Friday July 22nd a block party will be hosted by the Plainfield Police Division at the corner of East 2nd Street, and Johnson and Garfield Avenue.
The hope is that as law enforcement continues to engage in this positive manner it will foster a greater spirit of co-operation and trust between the officers and the community…
Jobs are a large part of the solution… To that end this administration has been aggressively pursuing and facilitating employment resources and opportunities aimed at putting Plainfielders to work.
An example of this type of innovation was the partnership between the US Postal Services and the City of Plainfield. This job fair resulted in the hiring of 100 Plainfield residents into full time employment.
Since 2013 unemployment has fallen from 14% to 5.9%. We are serious about putting people to work… A productive citizen is not one who will get involved in criminal activity. Each action, though seemingly small send ripples of change throughout our community. To enact a big change we must be diligent about the small ones.
We recognize that much danger lies in having our children roaming about with no set activities, especially during the summer time. It poses temptation to engage in unwholesome activity as well as potentially making them targets. Our Summer Youth Program has employed 170 youths this year. Youth will earn a stipend and gain valuable work experience. We were also able to hire 20 adults as part of the summer program
Yet another initiative underway is the revival of the Plainfield Youth Council. The Youth Council has as its objectives visiting community centers, meeting with community leaders, attending and sponsoring community meetings and taking any other actions as necessary to fulfill its charter. The Youth Council will provide a direct line of communication between the youth of Plainfield and my administration and will provide leadership opportunities for our teenage citizens. It will serve as a vehicle for open communication with the youth on any issues which may impact them, as well as regarding any pertinent current issues. The Youth Council will also actively recruit youth volunteers and educate them about any opportunities to serve the community.
This Youth Council will have a tremendous impact on bridging the connection between our young people and this administration. It is our hope that the closer our relationship the more we can provide solutions, choices and alternatives for them at each successive stage of their lives.
Earlier this year we held a youth summit, which featured youth-lead workshops on the state of Plainfield education. Community leaders spoke about solutions to the employment and educational issues facing the community and our young people had the opportunity to work with national and local scholars.
Plans are in place to facilitate funding for students who qualify but are unable to afford the fees at Union County College. There are also plans to provide a starter fund for every Plainfield child starting pre-school. We want to ensure that as our children get older they have the resources to follow their dreams. No child should be denied an education for lack of funding. We will give every child a head start in financial literacy and money management to help break the cycle of poverty and violence
We have expanded the hours at the public pools so that all three are open every day of the week until 6 PM. Not only are our young people able to enjoy quality time and cool down in the heat but we also provide breakfast and lunch for those who are at the pools.
Our parks are open every day with some fishing opportunities and there are numerous other activities sponsored by the recreation department which our youth can participate in. These may not seem like monumental steps in combatting our problem but each element is another step forward; it is another opportunity to engage and capture our youth in a positive way. We are looking at long term solutions even as law enforcement tackles the more immediate task of everyday policing
Through collaborative partnerships, we continue to build an environment where the voices of the youth are heard. We will continue to spend time and resources on Plainfield’s youth, we will continue to find ways to engage them and keep them off the streets… they are the future of our community, and the voices of our legacy. We will do all we can to nurture and protect them.
When one of us hurts, we all hurt. While Law Enforcement is our first defense they cannot be everywhere at all times. We have to be their eyes and ears. We have to care as much for our neighbors as we do for ourselves, we have to take care of each other’s children. We have to be vigilant if we are serious about weeding out the crime from amongst us.
As your Mayor there are things I can, and have been doing continuously. I will continue to support our community members and the servants of our city who work to protect us. I will continue to work steadfastly with our State legislators to enact changes to our current gun laws. I will assemble some of the best minds, community leaders, professionals and educators, in the coming weeks to help chart our course forward. I will work tirelessly on your behalf in my capacity as Mayor, and I will not stop until we see results from all these actions. Your safety and happiness are my top priority.
I need your help as citizens as we continue to shape Plainfield. If you want to be actively involved, please come and see me. We have commissions, committees and other community groups who need volunteers, and people who are ready to work for our City. It takes a village to raise our children and it will take unity to fight back and rid ourselves of the unwanted elements amongst us.
I need your support as a community, as people who know what it is to suffer loss. But we will not be defined by it. If we stand together against those who seek to harm us we will grow stronger.
The time is now Plainfield, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our community, our city, and unite! Watch out for each other. See something say something. Together we can make a difference. Together we are better.
Let us care for one another; let us use the love we all have in our hearts and spread it across our City; let us do something good for another person, for our neighbor, every day, and tell no one about it. Let us cleanse our hearts and minds of the toxins that will cause us to harm our brothers and sisters; let us love our neighbors as we love ourselves and let us be our brothers and sisters keeper.
In a world that sometimes feels so cold we must have warm hearts, because the cold within is more dangerous than the ambient temperature in any room. Now is the time for all of us to unite, it is not a time for bitterness; for “bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it”. We must let go, let us let go; let us come together.
And so, in closing, let me leave you with the words of James Patrick Kinney, an American poet who in response to the racism he experienced in the 1960s, and who believed that the pen is mightier than the sword wrote the following poem: The Cold Within:
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.
The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within
Plainfield, I am asking each of us to use our logs to save each other so that that in the process we save ourselves. Thank you, may God bless you, our City and the United States of America. Good night.