Essex County Sheriff Says Community Policing Helps Build Trust
Essex County Sheriff, Armando Fontoura, discusses why he believes the police department in Newark needs to do more “community policing” in order to build trust within the community. The Sheriff also shares his views on anti-police rhetoric.
"We are pleased to be joined by the Essex County sheriff, Armando Fontoura, who's part of our conversation we're having here in Newark called "Building Trust: Race, Police, and the Community." Armando, good to have you with us as always. Nice to be here. Thank you. Armando, I've asked you this many times. But you started in the Newark Police Department what year? 1967. I came out of the academy in March of '67. I think the riots or disorders broke out in, uh, July, as you know. It became a season of war against crime in a matter of three or four days. Armando, if you were to describe the essence of the struggle between the police and the "minority community"... It's complex. But how would you describe it? Well, I think that in spite of what all the rhetoric that, uh... pardon me... that you hear, that all of have been exposed to from where I started, from where I began in 1967, prior to that, the tension between the community, as a rookie cop, and immediately following the disorders, like, for several years after that, you could cut the tension with a knife. That's how serious it was. Mm-hmm. People did not want us their neighborhood. When we rolled by or walked by, they... we'd... we'd get stares. And we'd get stares back. So I think, from my perspective, we're miles and miles apart from those days. So, when I hear people say... Better? Absolutely... people... that it's as... as bad as it's ever been, I beg to differ with you. It's not as bad as it's ever been. This is a much, much improved... particularly here, in our city. We have good relationship with our... with our community, with our... with our minister alliance. We have community leaders that we meet with on a regular basis. I attend community meetings. Police Director Ambrose and Mayor Baraka and everybody else attends community meetings. By the way, those folks'll be with us in a conversation today. Well, just... I'm sure they'll reiterate what I'm saying, that we go to community meetings. We listen to people's concerns. And the concerns that I'm hearing... Then, like I said before, they didn't necessarily want us in the neighborhood. Now it's just the opportunity. No one says, "Don't come in here. We don't want you here." It's just the opposite. So what's going on in the rest of the... "We want to see more of you." Armando, what's going on in the rest of the country then that's so different? I think that, you know, the rest of the country is probably not as bad as it was. I think that, like I said, it's..."