TOTOWA, N.J. – A who’s who of New Jersey law enforcement promised community faith leaders zero tolerance for hate crimes during their eighth annual roundtable gathering Tuesday at the State Police headquarters in Totowa.
More than 100 attendees talked of how far the group has come over the past eight years and how its work has become increasingly important amid the recent wave of hate crimes and bias incidents – in New Jersey and nationwide.
Speakers included Bishop Jethro James, Chaplain Gary Holden and Imam Mohamed El Filali, who emphasized the effectiveness of continuing collaborations among faith-based communities and law enforcement as a crime-fighting tool.
In turn, NJSP Supt. Col. Rick Fuentes and various local, county, state and federal law enforcement officials -- including Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino – pledged their all to fight hate crimes and bias incidents.
NJSP Capt. Brian Polite said the various faith-based leaders have been “there for us, through good times and bad.
“Working with community leaders not only enhances local security,” Polite said, “but also allows troopers and members of law enforcement to have the benefit of getting support from the community leaders and chaplains in times of crisis.”
Understanding cultural norms is crucial to that process, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Elie Katz told the gathering.
“Gaining an understanding of faith based customs has given me the ability to do my job and run my office better,” Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato noted.
A special presentation honored Fuentes and Supt. Michael Fedorko of the Port Authority Police Department for their accomplishments, with the Rev. Steffie Bartley praising both for “many years of diligent and distinguished service.”
Prominent Jewish community leader and State Police chaplain Rabbi Abe Friedman also lauded the pair, along with representatives of both the government and law enforcement, for their continued efforts on behalf of the state’s many interfaith communities.
“Over the years, relationships between community leaders and law enforcement have become stronger and stronger,” Friedman said.
Attendees also lauded retired NJSP Major Al Della Fave, currently the Ocean County prosecutor’s spokesman, who launched the annual roundtable a decade ago.
“On day one of the academy we are taught that the level of crime or negative quality of life issues within a community will only be that which the community will tolerate,” Della Fave said. “The best law enforcement leaders and executives never forget this lesson.
“This annual meeting provides an outstanding opportunity to foster critical community support, connectivity and cooperation with law enforcement in order to assure safe and secure communities."