Cover Story

New Jersey State Police Superintendent, Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes
By Daniel Del Valle, George Beck, and Joseph Uliano
NJ Blue Now recently sat down with NJ State Police Superintendent, Colonel Joseph R. (Rick) Fuentes to get his take on a number of issues currently involving law enforcement in our state and across the country. In this exclusive uncensored interview, Colonel Fuentes discusses the future of modern policing, United States relations with Cuba, his agency, body cameras, and so much more.

NJ Blue Now Magazine: When you joined the state police, did you ever think that one day you’d be leading it?

Colonel Joseph r. Fuentes: No. Absolutely not! Every step of my career I was given a chain of very, very good assignments. I spent most of my career as a detective and in intelligence. I never chased ranks, mostly because I always thought the assignment that I was in was going to be the best assignment that I was going to have.

You worked with several governors on both sides of the political aisle, which is a feat that’s not common nowadays; can you tell our readers how you manage to separate partisan politics from policing?

I always said this to local chiefs, and you guys all come from those departments. I think the political pressures and the political tensions are far greater at your departments than they are here at the State Police. There is a lot of independence that’s given to the superintendent. The superintendent works for the Attorney General–that’s my chain of command, so the attorney general acts as a great buffer. If I was to put a reason behind maybe my longevity in this job, which is across four governors and seven or eight attorney generals, it’s probably because a large part had to do with the federal consent decree… I think as long the consent decree was going fine that probably was the foundation for my staying.

Where do you see modern policing headed in the next decade? 

We are trying to draw that template now. I would have to say the intelligence driven–which is really information driven that ends up as intelligence. It’s all part of the cycle, and technology today, relates to almost everything in policing right now. We are at the forefront on technology and intelligence. There’s always been an understanding on my part that the Hudson River is not a boundary or firewall against crime. Therefore, the greater New York City metropolitan area extends way into New Jersey, Newark, and beyond Newark, or as I like to say, the greater Newark metropolitan area extends all the way across the five boroughs of New York City. It really is one high-risk homeland security issue and hometown security issue related to crime and our ability to collaborate with not only police departments in New Jersey, but New York City is extremely important as well. And I have to say that most recent Bill Bratton and Jimmy O’Neil have been one hundred percent supportive of that.

You’ve been involved in intelligence-led policing where counties come together to analyze crime stats to see what they are missing. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge we face in terms of crime reduction and criminal apprehension? 

Okay, so you all know about the CORE STAT (corridor status) program. We realized five or six years ago, as the ROIC really began to stand out, we needed some kind of a format to bring police chiefs from cities and the smallest towns who often suffer the same issues, together to discuss crime. The area we picked out was the area where 80 percent of the crime in the state was located. We called it initially the “21 Corridor,” which spans 19 miles between Paterson and Newark that became the grounding of this initiative, now it’s spread out like a triangle. It goes to Jersey City, even down to Elizabeth in Union County. It’s always been and you guys will remember this, it’s sort of like the old detective associations on steroids, at those meetings people get together, sort of share the shoe box, the way things used to be, and you will talk about cases and try to share some tidbits. So what we did was formalized that process into CORE STAT and if you haven’t been to those meetings, you really should go because what goes on in those meetings is absolutely amazing. I’ve watched shootings get solved across the room, you know across the room in real time.

Is there a particular area where you would like to see improvement, as you go forward into the future with your agency? 

Yes, it’s going to be on the technology side. I think, in part, our training is good and our men and women are very confident, that’s because of the training and the processes that we put them through. But let me just go to an executive order that the governor signed last week. It was on the Office of Information Technology and it concerned establishing economies of technology across state government, that’s both, a way to eliminate waste and it’s also a way to energize the technology support that could been given to all departments. I think we were singled out as one of six agencies that they are looking at to energize the technology support. I think as long as we are staying on the cutting edge, because now everything is cyber. Even now talking about the opium crisis, we are talking about the dark web. Heroin is increasingly being supplanting and fatally with fentanyl and fourteen other analog compounds that we identify in our labs–it’s killing people with overdoses which remain at a troubling high rate, so we are doing that as a result of retooling our lab technology. On the cyber side, and obviously with the NJ CCIC program up in the ROIC, we are looking for cyber-attacks against government infrastructure at the local, county, and state level. If you keep your technology strong, you’re going to keep your organization moving forward, so that’s where I think the emphasis has to be, not just with the state police but in any large police agency. Because that will also define the amount of support we could give police departments that can’t afford those resources and that’s important.

Is an open relationship with Cuba a good idea considering they allow several of our fugitives of justice asylum?

So look, the relationships with countries are a matter for the President of the United States and Congress if there’s a treaty. I’ve taken a very aggressive position on this most recently. I wrote an editorial for the New York Post. This was during the waning moments of the administration of President Barack Obama. I went hard at the administration for not just Joanne Chesimard, but the other four, and these are going to be names that you may of heard of; Charlie Hill, Gerena, Cheri Laverne Dalton, remember her from Nanuet, NY and also Willy Morales–these are all individuals down there along with Chesimard, who have in some respect, either directly or indirectly been involved with police killings–whether it’s bombers or as a direct confrontation with law enforcement as in the case of Charlie Hill and Joanne Chesimard. Charlie Hill has not even been prosecuted for the murder of Trooper Robert Bloom, New Mexico State Police 1971, which was two years before Foerster was killed on the turnpike. So he’s been out there that long, high-jacked a plane within a month or two after that homicide, him and two other individuals, who flew to Cuba, where they were given political asylum.
Look, I have every reason to believe and have a very high level of confidence that the Administration of Donald Trump is going to address this issue, so you know I’m going to be front-and-center on that, but look, the New Jersey State Police is a familiar brand to the Administration of President Trump. He comes to Bedminster here and sees our Troopers constantly. He’s great with our Troopers, he understands New Jersey just like he understands New York and he also understands the situation involving the fugitives down in Cuba.

What can the President do to bring Chesimard and the other terrorists hiding in plain sight in Cuba back to the United States? 

Put those chips back on the table. I don’t know how else to express that. I guess that’s probably the best way to do it. You know we haven’t concluded those negotiations yet. The last Administration still left this an open issue.

Do you feel the U.S. fugitives should have been part of the negotiations? 

Absolutely!

In 2016, the 156th class graduated with 32% minorities. Is that a satisfying percentage for you or is there more to be done to increase those numbers? 

I won’t name specific states but I would put those numbers up against any academy in the land. Your department should reflect the persons you are serving and that’s the bottom line. We got very, very aggressive in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office maybe four or five years ago. We basically redesigned the whole recruiting bureau. Most importantly, we put money behind it. I think that was one of the issues. If you don’t have money to go out and do it, like billboards, radio ads, meetings, and going out of state to different types of schools that have diverse student bodies, you’re going to be limited. You need to have money behind that. The last three or four attorney generals have been very, very supportive on this concept. So beginning with several classes ago, we implemented this. We are seeing the fruit of this right now and it’s been very, very positive and just recently we had a meeting with the community up in Totowa, where members of minority groups and faith-based communities went to the podium and said some very good things about the State Police, relating to the accomplishments directed toward diversity. It makes us a better organization and makes a well-grounded organization. It’s bettering our relationships with the community and it’s very, very strong here in New Jersey. And look, I’m not just laying on State Police. I think that law enforcement in general at every single level in New Jersey has been commendable on the way they have related to the community. I could tell you, when they did the 21st Century Policing, we went through each one of those pillars and looked at all those things and the satisfying thing there is this didn’t just pertain to the State Police, but across law enforcement in general as so many of those pillars were already being followed by police agencies in New Jersey.

Your agency has a strict policy with physical fitness for those seeking promotions. Do you believe local and county agencies should follow that lead and why? 

I would never tell the county and local departments what to do, but I could tell you why we do it. I think one of the distinctions is that we often patrol alone, at distances that are somewhere separate from our back up. We all have been in boxing rings. We know what happens when you hold your hands up trying to stand off against somebody for a minute. I don’t know how Chuck Webner or Muhammad Ali and Frasier did it for fourteen rounds, but you will get exhausted pretty quickly. We always maintain that you have the ability to know your limitations, physically and mentally, and that you could go beyond them, which is what we train people to understand in the academy. A lot of people enrolled at the academy, never had thrown a punch, never had fired a gun, and by the time they come out, they have an understanding on how to best defend themselves… The police officer or the trooper that comes across as physically fit is far less likely to get involved in a physical confrontation, because nobody wants to engage in the physical confrontation they don’t think they could be successful in. So again, we teach our people when you are by yourself, you are protecting your gun, because if you lose your gun, the situation changes dramatically, that’s why we maintain that level of fitness.

Body cameras, what is your take? 

I like them and I’ll tell you why: Look, we have been what I call Hollywood, since 1999, which is why we are filming our stops. Obviously in car video systems, they give you the landscape view of the motor vehicle stop… You still end up with the he said or she said about the appearance of contraband, or for the movements that require our additional actions like observing a gun. Those types of things, and that is important, it (body cameras) sort of closes the loop on that… So essentially we had a slow roll out on the body cameras that we are putting out now… We have them in three stations, and we are putting them out to four more right now. We are putting out a camera that is redesigned–we are the ones designing or redesigning the cameras with our vendor–the reason is, we need a twelve hour battery. A twelve hour battery on the camera creates a bulky camera that we have seen and can dislodge from our uniform–from the summer shirt even from the winter uniform. We are trying to get to a camera that hooks into the belt, which means it will stay there and has a wire with audio and visual that goes up the tie, so the chances of dislodging in a physical confrontation are far less.

A lot of our readers are officers, troopers, the guys at the bottom, non-administrators. What’s your message to those patrolling the streets? Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of anti-law enforcement sentiment and some officer’s feel they kind of have lost their purpose. What is your message to the road officers out there? 

Don’t let narrative influence you. Don’t let the media agenda influence you. I looked at New Jersey when all the unrest was going around the country, and we never had any problems. Why? Because of the community relationships that police across all levels of law enforcement in New Jersey had already established with the community. I think it’s our professionalism. I think it’s ours, and again this is me talking broadly about law enforcement in New Jersey, not just State Police, but to go back to the beginning of your question, the person who is wearing the uniform and out on patrol is the heart and soul of every organization–that’s the center of gravity… When people still ask me, what’s your job? I say I’m a Trooper in New Jersey. That’s the most honorable best thing that I could say in terms of what I have done with the last almost forty years of my professional life. The person that’s wearing that uniform is the bedrock, the shoulders on which we all stand on. So look, depending upon on what newspaper you read, depending upon what TV channel you look at, you are going to get different views about law enforcement, but I think the standards for us are higher than anybody else. We are put on the highest pedestal, right? And that’s where we should be. We have powers that stand beyond the President of United States with the ability under very specific circumstances and justified to be able to take a human life. That is an incredible amount of accountability and responsibility, which is why we train our people to the degree that we do. I can be proud in my organization, but I see law enforcement across the spectrum in New Jersey and the job we have all done.

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have dealt with being the head guy?

That’s actually an easy one for me, too. We are in collaboration with all police departments. That has placed a lot of responsibility on us. The information sharing, you know the intelligence. The ROIC puts out up to three thousand products a year that police departments are completely depending upon. The one thing I get concerned about is being able to fuel that mission, and every week I get together with my deputy superintendants about three hours. They provide me with an agenda and throw out some items of their own and we sit down and help each other out. That’s very important… I don’t micromanage this organization. I got a very good command staff, so decision making has come a lot faster, which is the result of that. I’m not waking up too much at night. They are, and that’s the way it should be and they are very good problem solvers. And it’s not a lieutenant colonel, keep in mind the person who runs the 24/7 watch in the ROIC, who is the point of contact if they are needed, like a lost child, overturned tractor trailer, plane crash, whatever the case may be, any of our specialized resources is either through a high ranking sergeant or a lieutenant. I always go back to what Dwight Eisenhower said, “The sergeant is the army.” …Our mission has expanded since 9/11. I worry about being able to keep up with a lot of those obligations.

Family First

Summer Fun in the Sun
By Sgt. Anthony Espino

It’s that time of year again. School is out and summer is in. The excitement of summer flows through the minds of many school students and teachers. I say teachers also because my wife, who is a teacher, reminds me quite often through the school year that she can’t wait for the summer.

Ten months a year spending seven hours a days, five days a week learning math, science, history, and taking exams can be a taxing and demanding schedule for a child. Therefore, many school students annually welcome the anticipation of summer.

What does this time of year mean for students? For some, it is their final year of high school and they’re busy preparing for their first year of college. For others, it’s just another school year gone by with the excitement of sleeping in, no homework, no teachers, and playing outside with their friends. The wonderment of youth is reborn in the bright and sunny days. Riding bikes, going to the park, and swimming at their local town pools, or going to the beach with their family and friends are some of the common activities many of these kids will be enduring this summer.

Though summer seems like a time to have fun and enjoy the warm weather, and for the most part it is, it’s also important to remind our children to be safe and careful when they’re outside enjoying these activities. We must remind them of the importance of wearing a helmet when riding bicycles or skateboarding, and to avoid riding on roadways with active traffic flow. Swimming at the town pool or at the beach is a fun activity, but also can be a dangerous one. We must remind our children not to dive into pools that are less than six feet deep. Diving in shallow water is one of the most common of pool-related accidents. When at the beach, children must be reminded of the strong water currents in the ocean and how to avoid being pulled out to sea by teaching them to swim sideways with the current, not against it. When outside playing in the hot sun, staying hydrated is essential and applying sunscreen to avoid sunburn and harmful exposure to powerful sunrays.

These are just some of the safety tips to remind children so they can safely enjoy the summer break. Also, remember summer is a time when families get to spend quality time together–whether going on a vacation together or just sitting outside enjoying a nice barbecue or cooking smores by the fire pit. Make sure you make time to share these moments and create lasting memories.
Throughout most of the year life can be hectic. Parents work many hours a day, children are busy with their schoolwork, and there are always the after school activities. For many families this can take a toll on their bonding time with their children. This is why making the time for family during the summer is very important.

As I have mentioned in past articles, building a strong family foundation and bond will help develop our children to be kind, confident, respectful, and caring individuals. Being a parent myself to three daughters can, at times, be a task to juggle their schooling, sports, and after school activities. Compounded with a shift work schedule that has me working all crazy hours, making time can be challenging, but with the help and support of my wife we are able to juggle our family life all the while stressing to our children the importance of family values. We have no greater responsibility than the safety, security, and harmonious upbringing of our children.

So savor the nice weather, longer days, and the opportunity to enjoy family time that is often lost during the fall and winter months. Clear out busy schedules and make time to reflect on what’s important in life. Enjoy activities with the one’s that mean the most to you. Take advantage of this upcoming season with an open heart and open mind. Create memories, bond, laugh, and just enjoy the summer! Have a safe and happy summer.

Sgt. Anthony Espino is a 18-year veteran police officer, assigned to the Patrol and Crime Prevention Unit. His passion is to lecture to community members, teachers, and students to promote awareness and offer tips to prevent crime and victimization.

Remembrance

A Week of Remembrance: Police Week
By Joe Uliano, M.A., Ed.S.

On May 13, 2017, I was on the ground at the National Law Enforcement Memorial with staff writer, Debra Faretra, where we patiently awaited the arrival of the “Police Unity Tour.” To our surprise, we were simply overwhelmed with the excitement of watching 2500 riders circle the marble wall that holds the names of more than 20,000 police officers, who died in the line of duty. Looking in from the outside, I quickly found that my emotions began to shift away, turning from excitement to sorrow.

As the riders passed by, I began to notice the names and patches of fallen officers that each rider was riding for, a sobering experience to say the least. Looking a little closer, I found many riders consumed by their own emotions, as tears ran down the faces of our brave warriors. Every rider I had the honor of speaking with, described the ride as being physically and mentally demanding, but each of them unselfishly concluding their remarks by saying “We Ride for Those Who Died.”

On May 14th, we returned to the “WALL,” and found it to be one of the most solemn experiences of our lives. We discovered that there were hundreds of family members standing at the base of the wall paying their respects to the name of their loved one engraved in the marble. This was a personal moment for them, but I am grateful that many of them were willing to share, stories of how their loved one lived rather than how they died. Many were leaving behind poems, flowers, photographs, and somebody even left a bottle of Coke with the name “Melvin” on it. At times the only sounds we heard was the wind, bagpipers coming from afar, and the unfortunate cries that articulate the fact that the pain of losing a loved one never truly fades away.

That evening we headed to the National Mall and attended the annual candlelight vigil where it can only be described as a “Sea of Blue.” Thousands upon thousands were in attendance and as the sun went down, this mass of people was clearly defined by the amount of lit candles lighting up the sky. Each candle served as a show of solidarity, which allowed us to find solace in those around us and from the dignitaries that spoke.

On May 15th, President Donald Trump presented himself in front of the Capital, where he offered his condolences to the families and then rallied the audience by saying it is his priority to ensure that law enforcement is “finally treated fairly with honor and respect.” He also made reference to the increase in law enforcement deaths in 2016 and declared, “The attacks on our police must end, and they must end right now. Every drop of blood spilled from our heroes in blue is a wound inflicted upon the whole country,” Trump said.

President Trump’s presence and remarks left an assuring feeling that help is on the way and he intends to be there for our law enforcement and the families of our fallen.

Please exercise a moment of silence and reflect upon our fallen, so that their memory will live on in our hearts and minds, and they are never forgotten.

Heroism Defined

Wounded Warrior
By Debra Ann Faretra

Freedom isn’t free! It’s the cost of our military service members’ lives that are lost or physically and psychologically wounded.

As a young man devoted to serving his country with honor, pride, and dignity, just as his father and grandfather did, Adam Hartswick was 18 years old when he enlisted in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2011 and then to Afghanistan in 2012. On May 14, 2013 at the age of 21, his life was changed forever.

Sgt. Hartswick (Ret.) was an Army Combat Medic trained to assist his fellow soldiers when they were critically wounded, but he found himself on the battlefield clinging to life, while tending to his own injuries.

There was a call that soldiers were injured in a blast and Hartswick went to do what he does best, tend to the wounded. The area where the blast occurred was vacant, but their platoon frequented it safely in the past. At some point while it was vacant, the Taliban snuck in and booby-trapped the area with IEDs, making it a live minefield. When Hartswick arrived in the area, he discovered that two soldiers from his platoon were DOA, and another was missing but subsequently determined that he was killed in the explosion.

Hartswick quickly set up a casualty collection point and recovered the remains of his fallen brothers, while waiting for the EOD team (bomb squad) to arrive. When the EOD team leader went to defuse a device, it detonated, killing him and wounding others-including Hartswick. Hartswick was dazed, and sustained only minor injuries from the first blast. He set off to treat the newly wounded soldiers, then ran to get the EOD team leader, but unbeknownst to him, he was already dead. While moving in the direction of the blast, Hartswick stepped on an IED himself. He landed on his stomach, and then realized his legs were missing as he rolled over. He attempted “self aid” by applying a tourniquet to one of his amputated legs.

Infantrymen did a mine sweep to make their way to assist Hartswick and called for an evacuation helicopter that was already en route. The helicopter landed in the center of a minefield and the unit risked their lives to assist in the rescue mission of Hartswick and his “blast brother.”

Sgt. Adam Hartswick and Spc. Dane Degrace were airlifted together and spent some time in an Afghanistan Hospital.

Hartswick learned that his injuries weren’t limited to just his legs. He also sustained fractures, lost his right trigger finger, tip of his right thumb, and right forearm muscle. Further examinations revealed that he also suffered mild traumatic brain injury and ear drum damage.

While being transported back to the States, he spent time in several different military hospitals along the way. His final recovery was at The Walter Reed Military Hospital in Maryland, where he spent approximately 16 months in recovery.

He underwent long term physical therapy to learn how to live with prosthetic legs. The military hospital offered him shooting classes, to learn how to be productive with a weapon again, since he lost his trigger finger. They also offered crossfit training, hunting, and fishing.

Dealing with this traumatic and life changing experience wasn’t an easy task, but he had a very strong support circle that helped him overcome his adversity and has an amazing sense of humor that he relies on during troubling times.

His major mindset was that he wasn’t going to let the Taliban defeat him by permanently crippling him and letting his brothers die in vain.

Trauma doesn’t always necessitate destruction, it can sometimes build a person, but no two traumas are the same and should never be compared. Every person has their own experiences from birth on up, which aren’t up for judgment.

Hartswick currently works for “Techline Technologies” out of Pennsylvania as a battlefield medicine instructor. He instructs on tactical combat casualty care to first responders and government agencies. Caring for the tactically wounded has been an unfortunate need in the United States since we have been challenged with terrorist attacks.

Hartswick is an avid supporter of the Tunnel to Towers Veterans’ Organization that helps build houses for wounded warriors.

The true heroism of our military service members could never be articulated enough in an article. We can only imagine what they suffer through, but can never truly grasp their strength, unless we have been in their boots.

It was an honor and blessing to have met this amazing person and someone I now call my hero. I have the most admiration and respect for him and all of our military service members and first responders that have sacrificed so much.

We at NJ BLUE NOW would like to remember the fallen soldiers in Sgt. Hartswick’s platoon that were lost on May 14, 2013, while serving in Afghanistan. United States Fallen Army Soldiers: SFC Jeff Baker, SPC Cody Towse, SPC Mitch Daehling, SPC Willie Gilbert.

Remember all that were lost, have served, and are currently serving this Independence Day!

Freedom isn’t Free!

Debra Ann Faretra, M.A., is a Mental Health Educational Consultant for law enforcement. She has a masters in Police Graduate Studies from Seton Hall University. She attended Caldwell University for two years as a graduate in Clinical Counseling Psychology Studies and is completing a second master’s degree at Seton Hall University in Psychological Studies. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She currently works in Essex County, New Jersey.

On The Beat

BLUE INK
By Anthony Mikatarian

Tattooing has arguably been around since many centuries BC. The documented earliest signs of tattooing come from the Egyptian pyramid era. However, researchers found it has been around much earlier. Tattooing has and still plays a significant role in many different cultures around the world with its various purposes and meanings. Tattooing plays significant roles in such areas as traditions, rituals, status, religion, symbols, memorials, skill and membership. It also carries a negative stigma in such areas as marking prisoners, criminals and slaves.

Let’s examine tattooing in American culture, specifically in the law enforcement community.

In the U.S., tattooing have existed since the Native Americans but appeared to have taken off with sailors and military personnel after the American Revolution. Tattooing was used for such things as identifying purposes, honor, and to mark foreign excursions/battles. For a considerable period of time, tattoos were excluded from the mainstream, and other than the military, groups such as bikers, gang members and criminals, mostly utilized them.

In the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even today, American society’s view of tattooing began to change. This was mainly because of our counterculture changes, such as the hippie, punk rock, rock, metal rock and hip hop/rap movements. These rebellious movements had increased the popularity and demand of tattoos, thus transitioning tattooing into an acceptable and common art form in mainstream America. Tattooing has now exploded into popularity with people from all walks of life and for all different reasons. A recent poll indicates that 30 to 40 percent of adult Americans have at least one tattoo and about 70 percent of them have more than one tattoo. The evidence indicates these percentages will grow in the recent future.

The law enforcement environment has historically been known to be conservative, but with our ever-growing societal norms, many law enforcement agencies are following suit with these changes. This includes tasteful tattoo artwork being acceptably shown on their officers. There are some administrators who are apprehensive of change, especially when it comes to the perception of his/her department. This is definitely understandable, especially if their focus is to make sure their officers are tactically safe, motivated, presentable, and most of all, approachable.

A tastefully tattooed officer can fill all these mentioned categories. It will show the community that you are down to earth, approachable, and humanized, while indicating that you possess authoritative power when needed. A tattooed officer can utilize his tattoos as a conversational piece to break the ice with civilians, especially ones that display or possess tattoos of their own. As for motivation, many officers utilize tattoos as story books for such things as pride for their profession, memorializing experiences, religion or for honoring family. This brings pride and comfort, as well as motivation for survival, for those of us who have to put a bulletproof vest on every day.

Visible tattoo artwork or any other body enhancements must be tasteful and appropriately placed, as well as acceptable to your department’s mission. The tattoo culture in law enforcement is undoubtedly becoming a more accepted practice in expressing ourselves in a positive way in this extraordinary profession we are all called to do. God Bless and stay safe.

Anthony Mikatarian has been a police officer for over 17 years. He is currently assigned to patrol in a northern NJ municipality. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., and another degree in mortuary science from the American Academy McAllister Institute in New York City.

Inside Perspective

SPASM
By Bob Dvorchak, War correspondent and Veteran (82nd Airborne)

Listen up! Time for a sit-rep. Long overdue, frankly. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and if you got ‘em, bum ‘em. But, there comes a time when one has to take the bull by the tail and face the situation, as we used to say while coming of age during Vietnam.

Sixteen years after we were attacked, and 21 years after the declaration of war on us by religious radicals who kill in the name of Allah, the Islamic name for the One God also known as Yahweh and Our Father, the scourge is spreading, not diminishing. We are losing the war on terrorism, which is the defining moment of our civilization. And who’s in charge exactly of Operation FUBAR?

The fanatical believers who turned our own civilian airplanes into weapons have evolved into converting rented trucks into stealth weapons of mass hysteria. Is it a stretch to connect the dots from the latest butchery in London to Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, San Bernardino, Fort Hood and to Kabul, Mosul, Raqqa, Mogadishu, Yemen scores of clandestine garden spots?

The bloodshed and outcry about an individual act of savagery is powerful enough to knock the daily reality TV fare off 24-hour TV for a day or two, but if anybody’s connecting the dots to explain the big picture, they’re not being heard.

Let’s rally around a common purpose, people. How is that my country was divided like no time since the Civil War during Vietnam, came together in healing during Desert Storm and is now divided against itself while the Mother Of All Jihads flickers in the background against the backlight of the Mother of All Bombs dropped on the Islamic State in Afghanistan, where we went to displace the Taliban and destroy Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda before turning our attention to Saddam Hussein, which allowed for the birth of ISIS. In war, as I understand it, the idea is to reduce the number of enemies, not create more like a breeder reactor.

In the first Gulf War, enlightened reading was done by American warriors on Sun-Tzu’s Art Of War, the military Bible along the lines of The Art Of The Deal. Know your enemy. Win the war, then fight it.

America’s all-volunteer military was the product of the ashes of Vietnam. Those who fight the wars came up with the strategy of using overwhelming force, unleashing the combined might of the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and the Army, in one terrible, swift blow to get the war over with as quickly as possible.

In my youth, Linden B. Johnson would appear on TV with a heavy heart to bring bad news about Vietnam, the bad news being the war he led us into wasn’t working out and he’d try to end it while blame for failed policies was transferred to those in uniform who obeyed the commander-in-chief.

I’m not making this political. I’ve been a registered Independent ever since the year I held the last lottery number in the last draft ever held and was inducted into the Army. I never left the States. Vietnam was over. This was the last call for conscripts while the military transitioned to an all-volunteer force.

But I have scars from that time. My oldest brother was wounded twice within a span of ten days after arriving in country, six months after the Tet Offensive.
In my opinion, leadership failures by presidents of both parties have poured gasoline on a fire started by cut-throat radicals.

In the afterward of a tribute I wrote to the grunts in the First Iraq War, I say flat out that the Vietnam Syndrome that one man said he had kicked, was replaced by the Iraq Syndrome that his son succumbed to before the task was done in Afghanistan.

I feel misled in every sense of the word, and as an Army Veteran, as a Baby Boomer who was in college during the Kent State shootings, as a witness to war in the Middle East, and as a grandfather who wants nothing more than to see his five darlings grow up in a world of peace and security, I don’t like being misled.

Fixing the blame is an exercise in futility when it comes to fixing the problem. Somebody better get a handle on Operation FUBAR before more innocent civilians are slaughtered.

When is someone in leadership going to put this country on a war footing while building a coalition of all peace-seeking countries, including Islamic countries and Islamic leaders, to snuff out this scourge?

People a lot older and a lot smarter than me have delivered the eternal truth that only the dead know the end of war. That doesn’t mean we can’t fight smarter to keep from losing.

We have paratroopers back in Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the local militia and troops from the nations we’ve tried to build, with predictable results. Twenty-six years ago, the president sent the entire 82nd Airborne Division as the vanguard of an Army which assembled tanks, artillery, attack helicopters and mechanized infantry under an air umbrella of total supremacy.

We have come to a time where everybody’s locked into an unyielding position. There weren’t many things that our candidates agreed on in the last bruising election, but Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump happened to say at one time or another that the Second Iraq War was a mistake.

Like the band Chicago sang back in the day, Where do we go from here?

Bob Dvorchak was a lifelong journalist who covered the war in Desert Storm and is the author of the recently released journal — Drive On: The Uncensored War of Bedouin Bob and the All-Americans.

Spotlight

Philip Alfano Jr.: Selfless devotion to Country and Family

Sixteen years before Philip Alfano Jr. patrolled the streets of Newark, NJ, he was a gunner on U.S. Navy ships that protected fuel and supplies into Guam and Saipan—where the B-29s would launch from and bomb Tokyo during WWII. He tells how the Navy took him all over the world and through hostile areas of the South Pacific supporting the war effort as a seventeen-year-old kid from New Jersey.

“It made a man out of me,” Alfano said. “It was an education. It taught me how things went on in the world.”

Alfano, 92, and proud that shortly he will reach his 93rd birthday in good health, devoted his life to public service, and inspired many of his children and grandchildren to do the same. The Alfanos are legendary in the city of Newark, mostly in the Fire Department, where generations of Alfano’s continue to proudly protect and serve the city.

It all began while at port in Portland, Oregon in 1943 when Alfano met his future bride, Beryl. After the war, the happy couple would marry and begin a family in Newark, NJ. They had seven children, of which in turn grew into 24 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and another two great-grandchildren on the way.

Alfano tells how marrying, Beryl, who lived on the West Coast, led to traversing the American countryside in a motorhome.

“We’ve seen the entire county. Every National Park and destination stop this country offers,” Alfano said.

After the war, Alfano worked in a jewelry factory, got laid off, and at that time had five children and needed steady employment. Bill Geraghty, a close friend on the Newark police force suggested he’d make a good officer, and urged him to take the upcoming police and fire exams.

“So I took and passed both tests,” Alfano said. “The police department called first, so I took that job. A year later, the fire department called but I was already walking the beat and decided to stay on the force.”

Alfano would spend the next decade working the radio car, making many arrests, and risking his life in a city where eventually the infamous riots would break out in 1967.

“The riots were a difficult time for the police department,” Alfano said. As a selfless patriot, rather than discuss his personal service during the riots, Alfano seized the moment to celebrate and honor the life of Detective Fredrick Toto, who was shot and killed by a sniper at the intersection of Broome Street and Springfield Avenue during the riots. Detective Toto was ambushed by a gunman from a nearby apartment building.

“He was a good friend of mine,” Alfano said. “I’ll honor him by never forgetting him.”

Alfano’s memory is sharp. He spoke with meticulous detail of Detective Toto and other fallen Newark officers who made the ultimate sacrifice during his career. He instantaneously recalls even the smallest of details, and how much respect he has for those who wore the uniform, and laid down their life while doing so.

“Being a police officer is a rough job,” Alfano said. “It’s a job I thoroughly enjoyed.”

By 1982, Alfano had seen and experienced enough.

“I wanted out. I wanted to be more with my family,” Alfano said. “The job was changing from when I joined the force in 1958. Today, it’s even more difficult to be a police officer.”

However, Alfano wants all officers out there today to know that as difficult as the job is at times, “You can persevere if you stick with it through the hard times,” he said. “Eventually, things all work themselves out. Stay safe and look out for each other.”

After retiring Alfano continues to stay active. He spends half the year in Florida and the other half on Culver Lake in Branchville, New Jersey. He is often seen at Culver Lake cruising around the winding lake roads in his golf cart or sojourning around in his boat. He fills his day by gardening, maintaining his property, and engaging in family and social activities.

Alfano’s secret to a long life of health and happiness is wine with dinner, staying active, enjoying hobbies, and having a supportive and loving wife. This summer the Alfano’s are celebrating seventy-one years of marriage.

“As busy as a career in law enforcement is, always make time for family,” Alfano said. “Family is the greatest joy of life.”

NJ Blue Now salutes Officer Phillip Alfano Jr. (Ret.) for a life of selfless devotion to country and family.

George Beck is a police detective, award-winning journalist, and managing editor of NJ Blue Now magazine. He’s a Ph.D. candidate at Drew University. He is the author of The Killer Among Us and several other books. His nonfiction and short stories have been featured in magazines and anthologies nationally and internationally.

Inside View

A court of justice?
By Joel E. Gordon

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

When crime occurs, it’s easy to blame the police. In reality, when crime occurs, it is the responsibility of the police to bring criminal investigations to a conclusion that may or may not result in criminal charges. Officers must work through a maze of rules about engagement and seizure of evidence to make cases that are valid to the court. Then, it’s up to prosecutors to bring or validate charges, and up to our judges to adjudicate same. When will we start to hold our courts accountable for their actions?

Even as a high school student, I possessed a pretty clear understanding of our three branches of government. I was fortunate enough to be selected to serve in the YMCA sponsored Maryland Youth and Governments Model Legislature in Annapolis, Maryland. This experience provided a great insight into the legislative branch of government. As a police officer, a member of our government’s executive branch, nothing could have ever prepared me in advance for the full effect and power of the judicial branch of government.

In 1980’s Baltimore City, every ninety days the judges would be rotated throughout the cities’ district courthouses. For three months, a sixty-something judge would preside over my West Baltimore cases. Red faced, the judge would look over his glasses, down at the defendants before him, and simply ask, “Do you have anything to say? If the police arrested you, I know you are guilty.” Everyone was guilty and many were sent to jail. Crime would go down as a result of his tenure.

Next up was a thirty-something judge, who would stop in the middle of testimony to go to chambers, calling his stockbroker to transact a stock purchase. Always with a Wall Street Journal in hand on the bench, he told me and my colleagues, “You’re a police officer and all police officers are liars. I don’t believe you.” Everyone was not guilty. Crime went up. The merits of any case had no merit. These cases were all pre-judged.

Despite the best efforts of those of us in law enforcement, how often have we seen a violent criminal let loose on society, prematurely resulting in further violence and criminal acts? I have experienced this firsthand.

Take the time I arrested a man for breaking his girlfriend’s ribcage, and then his attempt to stab me. Once in jail, he broke the cellblock toilet. He was charged with all three crimes.
At trial, the judge found him guilty. Sentencing was 90 days for assaulting his girlfriend, a consecutive 30 days for breaking the toilet, and a concurrent 30 days for trying to stab me with his knife. The prosecuting attorney turned to me in open court and said, “Officer, isn’t it nice to know you’re worth as much as a toilet?”

The man had a lengthy criminal arrest record, including numerous crimes of violence. He was released after 15 days in jail and promptly threw another police officer down a flight of stairs in the exact same location where I had arrested him before.

Now this: For at least the third time, Maryland’s panel that oversees judges’ conduct has publicly moved to discipline a longtime Baltimore judge for alleged, inappropriate behavior on the bench. Judge Alfred J. Nance, 68, who is currently the chief judge for Baltimore, was charged with a series of “persistently disrespectful and unprofessional” interactions with a public defender.

Then, there were claims that someone witnessed this judge incorrectly insist that Baltimore’s North Avenue ran north and south, and told an officer he was not credible, bordering a perjury charge, and contempt for proving via map and compass that North Avenue does indeed run east and west.

In the past, Nance has ordered a spectator to jail for 10 days for saying “Love you” to a handcuffed brother in the courtroom. Worried about a child at home, another woman began to cry, “Your baby will be there when you get out”.

Nance had replied, “You want me to send him [the baby] to social services? I’ll send him [to jail], too.” He also has reportedly ordered a woman out of his courtroom for wearing a strapless shirt stating: This is not the beach.

In a response to the commission, Nance denied that he had violated the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct and asked for the charges to be dismissed. A public hearing is scheduled this July on the charges, and the Commission will decide whether Nance has committed sanctionable conduct.

We need to hold our judges accountable for ensuring that all live up to our rights and responsibilities. Our safety and well-being must not be unnecessarily compromised, resulting from jurists gone awry now, or in the future.

Joel E. Gordon is a former Field Training Officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is a past Chief of Police for the city of Kingwood, West Virginia. He is author of the book Still Seeking Justice: One Officer’s Story, and has been a feature columnist in the Morgantown West Virginia Dominion Post newspaper. He is the founder of the Facebook group Police Authors Seeking Justice. Look him up at stillseekingjustice.com