Perspective: Hammonton Police
Society is always changing. Even more so recently. This is seen everywhere, from large metropolitan cities all the way through to one-horse towns. Somewhere in that range is where you would put the town of Hammonton. Yes, change is even happening here.
Our department has undergone more training and changes in policing in the past few years than many other years before. Among these are changes in the use of force policies across the nation. There is a strong focus on de-escalation tactics and techniques to reduce the possibilities of needing to use force and a re-affirmation of accountability on the force which is used.
The two major trainings on the use of force and methods of reducing the possible need of use are called ICAT (Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics) & ABLE (Active Bystander Law Enforcement). They are nationally- recognized programs which are being implemented by agencies throughout the nation and now here in New Jersey. These trainings do not dictate that officers can’t use appropriate force to protect the public, themselves, and affect lawful arrests, and they help reduce the use of force. This is done by employing de-escalation techniques using communication, situational awareness and using tactical advantages to reduce incidents in which force would be used. This is something that historically has been done by most of the officers employed in our agency through the years, but now we have received additional training and nomenclature.
Diversity in the composition of the agency: This too is another change that is being implemented throughout our state. We have been on our way to changing the demographics of our sworn and non-sworn personnel prior to this movement by the state of New Jersey. We were one of the first agencies in New Jersey to adopt the ability of hiring of certified officers instead of just hiring new recruits or those certified from a NJCSC list. We have bilingual officers and staff and are seeking more.
It is extremely important to have diligent, well qualified and skilled, intelligent police officers working in our agency to perform their jobs to the quality that this town deserves. As much as this is a peaceful community, it is not in a bubble or exempt from serious and life-threatening crimes. Nor is it immune from the rise in the mental health crisis. It is truly a difficult time for law enforcement agencies. The desire for candidates to embark upon a law enforcement career has declined, income for law enforcement is not as rewarding as private-sector careers, scrutiny of split-second decisions by officers now drawn out for months in the media and courts, and the finish line for retirement of new officers has been extended to 30 years of service to reach their retirement goal.
This is a great town with public safety and community harmony being a foundation that draws both new residents and commerce here to grow. Our department will continue to evolve and change with the changes in society. We are striving to attract, train and retain the highest caliber of officers to ensure public safety. It is my goal to continue providing this community with the best police department possible to serve and protect those that live, work and visit the town of Hammonton.
Kevin J. Friel
Hammonton Police Department