Yesterday, I shared a heartwarming video on my site’s Facebook Page that another Facebook user had posted, of a local police officer in Hampton Virginia, ensuring from his patrol car that a mother duck and her babies were safely able to cross a busy highway.
With the rash of negativity that has come against the law enforcement community from a councilman in Franklin Borough New Jersey, in the county in which I live and report (and have even published an article about his swearing in), I think it is important to focus and emphasize the positive that the law enforcement community has done here.
Granted, as I have written in Facebook posts, my own previous opinion piece on the topic, and other places since this has happened, there are bad apples in every profession, including mine as a journalist, but that does not mean the whole batch of apples needs to be pitched. For most of those apples are shining and sweet. And I’ve witnessed a lot of great things that the local police in my county have done.
I would never stop typing actually, if I had to recount all of the good deeds and kindnesses that I have witnessed in my profession and personally, about what our police officers do for us. In spite of what Mr. David Fanale has said, and I did want to air his side because that is my job, I will reemphasize, I have done that to present objective reporting, though I did not agree with his viewpoint (on a side note, to those folks in Vernon who are slamming me on nj.com about my opinion on Camp Sussex…you have the ability to speak to me as Mr. Fanale does, instead of hiding in your peanut gallery forum, and you will be offered the same courtesy).
Now, Mr. Fanale has referred to those who support the police departments as “cop whores” among his friends list. And he might eventually lump me in with that group if he hasn’t privately already…maybe he’ll even refer to me as their “madame”…so be it…since he’s a promoter of free speech in his slamming of law enforcement and says he’s a Libertarian, I’m as entitled to write an opinion piece using my free speech on this, recognizing police officers for the positive that they do (and to digress again for the tiny segment of the Vernon population who slammed me for writing an “opinion” piece about Camp Sussex…opinion, means opinion, which means that it is my perspective and I don’t have to agree or disagree with your’s…the last time I checked this was America and I am as entitled to have my opinion on something as are you). As I told Mr. Fanale before we commenced our interview, I was upset by what he had posted and what he’d said. I’m sure he’ll think the same of this. Yet, I am a journalist and a citizen of this country and allowed the same freedoms of speech that he is stating he has to speak out against the police departments. And I know he knows because we have spoken on the phone, that he and I can have a discussion on this topic, and do so civilly, in spite of our different views on this.
I am just puzzled about a man who would be so worried about offending those on his friend’s list who commented on a photo that was a Christian-toned one, including me, and the some of the data turned out to be inaccurate (it was a meme that was a “Christian versus Science” perspective), that he would delete the photo and apologize to all of us, that he feared we would unfriend him for it. Yet, Mr. Fanale won’t apologize to officers and families for a urinating cartoon on a fallen officers’ flag.
However, I’m digressing…and I’d like to return the stage to those who I chose to really write about today. Now, I will get off of my soapbox and shine a spotlight on members of law enforcement who have done touching things, since sometimes, members of my profession, like to bash all the bad that occurs with police departments…
In my own career, I have seen plenty of good, like a bunch of brother officers helping one of their own. I will focus on members of the Sparta Police Department, who gathered actually in Mr. Fanale’s community of Franklin Borough, at the Fireman’s Pavilion. They organized a benefit for Corporal John Seville. I was honored to have written a profile story about Mr. Seville, who nearly died from a torn aorta. His department and the community pulled together, and I was one of 500 people from around Sussex County and beyond, who helped to celebrate Mr. Seville at a fundraising event. Here are pictures for those who would like to check it out.
The DWI reenactment at Newton High School, which was a coordinated effort between the Newton High School, Newton Police Department, Newton Fire Department, Newton First Aid Squad, and paramedics from St. Clare’s, was another event. I ended up with chills that day, as I watched students and emergency personnel act out their roles. It felt so real. This simulation, I feel, kept students safe around prom time. Watching the students’ faces as the watched the action, I feel made them think twice that prom night. They learned the consequences of what could be, if they made that choice. Jail, loss of privileges, injuries, and even death, were among the possibilities in the scenario presented. I watched this mostly through my camera lens (for those who didn’t know, I am a photojournalist by trade, so I have taken many pictures over my career…in fact on this particular site that I’m linking to here, there are over 279 albums with my photos in it). To have seen the emotion that day, I know that students benefitted from this demonstration, which was a volunteer effort by all departments, to save lives and prevent tragedies. Click here to see photos.
Here is another effort from county law enforcement, in 2012, as our county sheriff, worked with seniors in the Andover Township community, and introduced their K-9 dog. Click here for photos of the visit with Atlas. While we’re remembering law enforcement, we cannot forget the canine helpers such as Atlas, who is one of the four-legged heroes that help every day.
Here’s another story, with a tearful ending…little Joey Johnson was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. His Dad Joe works with the Stanhope Police Department. I had the blessing to meet this little man and spend time with he and his family one day. Joey was a sweet little guy, and his illness struck his family terribly. Poor little Joey had a rough day when I visited him and was in a lot of pain. Joe’s fellow brothers and sisters in blue helped mobilize fundraising efforts for little Joey, and his family was considering a foundation to help others with cancer. Sadly, young Joey succumbed to his illness, but not before fellow law enforcement helped raise money to help Joey and his family for their medical fund. This little champion touched the hearts of many who knew him, and one of the reporters who worked with me when I was an editor at another publication, referred to him as one of the bravest little boys she had ever met. Click here if you’d like to read this article.
Newton Police Department’s Sgt. Frank Philhower, who is a wonderful officer within my community, has conducted a couple “Coffee with a Cop” events. This initiative is a national one that Frank has conducted at the local level, to get to chat with residents in the community over coffee. This is a wonderful public service that our police department, and many others throughout the nation, also do. Here is a press release I published about it.
Just less than a week ago, Ret. Lt. Jeff Nafis passed away, unexpectedly at his home. He left an impact on the community, and in fact, was someone I photographed at the John Seville fundraiser flipping steaks that day. I saw some other photos of him at a beefsteak fundraiser as well for another officer who was ill. He was a “gentle giant,” and a kind man who has been remembered for his service to Sparta, and his impact stretches beyond the town’s borders. Click here to read.
How about the efforts of the 200 Club? An organization with chapters throughout the nation, including Sussex County that helps families in need who have lost a loved one in the emergency services profession, as well as awards emergency personnel for the great things they do? It was in October 2013 that the 2013 Valor Awards took place for the 200 Club of Sussex County. Andover Township Police Officers Sgt. Eric Danielson, George Laoudis, and Joseph Indano, were recognized, as well as dispatcher Janet Ragsdale. Newton Officer Daniel Finkle also received an award (as well as past Newton Fire Chief Joe Inga). In Mr. Fanale’s own town, Franklin Borough Police Lt. Jeffrey Smith, Sgt. Leo Kinney and Officer William Grissom, along with Byram Township Police Sgt. Guy Mariani, and Hardyston Township Officer Michael Masters, were also honored. An active shooter, a fire, and a hostage situation, as can be read in this article, were the reasons these officers were commended. Click on the article for more.
I could go on and on about more. Officers who have saved lives, officers who educate our youth through D.A.R.E. programs, officers who conduct workshops about child safety seats, officers who help investigate accidents and crimes, officers who head into incidents without a second of thought, not realizing, it will be their last moment…
Though she was not from our area, her story has now touched Sussex County, and in spite of Mr. Fanale saying the officers or residents complaining that are “not from here,” or not “from Franklin,” don’t count, I disagree. Because of the response for Mr. Fanale’s actions to Franklin Mayor Paul Crowley, this family is now as much a part of this county’s fabric now as any of residents. And it’s Mr. Fanale who made that happen. I have learned of a retired NYPD police officer James Smith hurt by Mr. Fanale’s post, as he shared a letter he wrote to Mayor Crowley and sent to me…something I published in my opinion piece and Facebook Page. When one Googles the name “Moira Smith 9/11,” the phrase alone shows it’s been Googled much as it pops up automatically…also with the search string, “Moira Smith 9-11 hero.” When her name is Googled, images come up of a heroic woman who escorted bloodied victims of the terrorist attacks to safety. Photos also come up of her young daughter, stunned as she holds her father’s hand, James Smith, at events following her mother’s death. There are also photos of Officer Moira Smith’s badge, found among the wreckage (in my feature photo), and mangled by the effects of the terrorist attacks. There’s a photo too of Patricia Smith, now grown, as she helps to dedicate a sign for the Police Officer Moira Ann Smith Playground, in her mother’s memory.
This is the ripple effect of people who are impacted by the venom in the post from Mr. Fanale with Calvin the cartoon urinating on a fallen officers’ emblem to whom he says he owes no apology. Not just living officers, not just fallen ones like Moira Smith…but also children like her daughter Patricia…whose mother gave her last valiant, selfless act by guiding frightened victims out of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center, directing people out with her flashlight. His Calvin cartoon peed on a lot of memories of the fallen, and also their families who suffer pains daily as a result of having lost their loved ones. I highly recommend everyone click the link about Moira here, to learn what this police officer meant to so many of the lives she saved that day.
On My Mind: Thank you to all the officers for all the good work you do every day. May you know how appreciated you are, by those like me who appreciate you and all you do.
What do you think?
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