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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

November 2022 | Volume 15 | Issue 11

When Ewing Township (New Jersey) Police Department (ETPD) Chief Albert Rhodes stepped up to lead his department in 2021, he was very aware of the toll that the pandemic had taken on the local population. He knew that a number of people in this central New Jersey township had lost jobs and that some families were struggling. To help people in need and strengthen the departments relations with all the township’s residents, Rhodes asked his Community Relations Unit to connect with Faith & Blue, the national program that unites law enforcement with houses of worship and local organizations to provide services and programs that benefit their communities.

“I thought this was an excellent opportunity to enhance current relationships while building bridges in the areas we needed to work on. Faith & Blue provided a national platform and assistance to accomplish these goals,” he said.

Partnering with Faith & Blue to Build Bridges

This month’s contest-winning photo shows Detectives Irving Bruno and Danielle Bethea unloading donations they had collected on October 19, 2021, for the Helping Hands Food Pantry, which was started by a local teacher after the schools had closed the previous year. Said ETPD Sergeant Richard Herbe, “This was our inaugural Faith & Blue event, which was coordinated with members of the Ewing Covenant Presbyterian Church, who promoted it and helped us collect food. This October, we partnered with Grace Cathedral Church to collect donations for the food pantry again.”

The ETPD has engaged in community outreach events such as National Night Out and Community Fest for many years, but since joining Faith & Blue has expanded its connections with other service organizations. Herbe said, “Though not all of our events are related to Faith & Blue, we learned the value of forming partnerships, especially with faith-based groups and other institutions, such as Capital Health Systems, which now helps us with several programs.

“Capital Health participates in our Youth Academy meetings by sending medical professionals to talk to students about what to do when somebody suffers a traumatic injury, the dangers of drug addiction, and other health topics.

“They also help us with Safety Town, a program in which we visit local kindergarten and first grade classes to talk to the children about staying safe at home, when riding bikes, or crossing streets and how to recognize dangerous substances they might come across.

“To ensure that the children are safe on our roads, we do children’s car seat inspections with Capital Health Systems too. The officers collect food items for the Helping Hands Food Pantry at this event and, with the support of organizations such as Bristol Meyers-Squibb and Capital Health, give baby seats to families who cannot afford to purchase them.

“We encourage our officers to refer anyone they encounter who has a need for a car seat, whether it's on a stop or when responding to any other incident, to notify our Community Relations Unit so we can arrange to provide them with a new car seat. Our certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will also install the seats.”

Another organization the ETPD collaborates with is the Ewing Police Benevolent Association (EPBA). Every November, ETPD officers and their supervisors volunteer with EPBA members to organize a Thanksgiving food drive for the Helping Hands Food Pantry – turkey dinners with all the fixings. With donations of gloves, hats, and coats from the EPBA and local businesses, as well as the assistance of Ewing’s schools, they’ve also started a winter coat drive for children.

Asked how he recruits volunteers for these programs, Sgt. Herbe said, “They’re popular with everybody in our department. One officer who is a member of [the] PBA’s civic association said it inspired him to get closer to the community. He even came up with an outreach activity. Called Pop with a Cop, our officers do it in the spring and fall. They visit school playgrounds at recess time to give flavored water ice out to the kids, who absolutely love it.”

Pushups for Diaper Donations

Another officer-inspired program was the ETPD’s Diaper Drive. The event was designed as a physical competition for the department’s employees, who did push-ups to earn diaper donations, and it was streamed on YouTube and linked to the department’s Facebook page.

Sgt. Herbe explained, “If the first officer did 20 pushups, the next one would try to do the same or more. For each pushup, the officer would donate a diaper to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides financial and other assistance to help military families with housing, caregiver support and other needs.”

Through their connection to Operation Homefront, ETPD officers got involved in another project. Assisted by volunteers from the nearby College of New Jersey, the officers collected furniture left behind by students at the end of the year and donated it to Homefront.

“Faith & Blue has opened doors to connect with our community through collaboration and connections with many people, businesses, and organizations here. It’s really expanded our community outreach and built important relationships throughout Ewing,” said Sgt. Herbe.

Added Chief Rhodes, “Local people are very enthusiastic about these programs. They always express their appreciation and spend time talking with us during these activities.

“The strained relationships that are often portrayed in the national media are not reflective of our officers or the Ewing community. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no work to be done; there is always room for improvement. Trust needs to be continuously earned and can be lost in a second if you lose sight of your mission, which is to serve the community.”

A Swift Water Rescue

As an example of his officers’ dedication, Chief Rhodes tells the story of Officer Justin Quinlan, who was recognized as the National Law Enforcement Museum’s Officer of the Month in October 2022 for his heroism in saving a woman from drowning during Hurricane Ida in August 2021. Quinlan was off duty, listening to the dispatch radio at home, when he realized that the department was overwhelmed with calls. So, he rushed to ETPD headquarters and was dispatched to rescue motorists trapped in their cars by the raging floodwaters.

In the midst of deep swirling water, he spotted an elderly woman who had left her vehicle to swim to safety but was now desperately holding onto a guardrail to keep from being swept away. Quinlan waded in and held on to her for more than 20 minutes until the Ewing Fire Department arrived to perform a swift water rescue.

The chief said, “Justin did what any of our officer would do—he left the comfort of his home to put the safety of another person before his. And this is what our department and community policing is about: serving and helping people.”

Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
COPS Office

Photos courtesy of the Ewing Township (New Jersey) Police Department.

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