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Gloucester Township Police Chief David Harkins Reflects on the Challenges Faced Over the Past Year:

 
 
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Gloucester Township Police Chief David Harkins
 
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP NJ (Nov. 15, 2020)--As I reflect on my 1 year anniversary as the Chief of Police of the Gloucester Township Police Department (October 30, 2019), I feel a great amount of pride in how together we have stepped up to the challenges of the last year. I think it is safe to say that no one could have predicted that we would be reacting to a global pandemic, a shutdown of our economy and schools, and the sudden civil unrest that our country has witnessed.
 
This occurred in addition to the “normal” incidents and dangers that we typically handle on a daily basis. We have certainly had our challenges. I am very proud to serve with the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department, who have pulled together and met every challenge that we have encountered. It was evident to me that the Gloucester Township Police Department is made up of the highest caliber of people. They have amazed me with coming up with solutions to daunting issues, while always remaining focused on our commitment to serve our community. We will continue to improve the way we do things, always looking to make our Department better and our community safer. We are committed to effectively train our personnel and build trust and legitimacy with our community.
 
An example of this commitment, all Officers and Dispatchers of the Gloucester Township Police Department completed a three-hour online in-service training course titled “Implicit Bias; Understanding the Impact on Actions & Decisions” from the Caliber Press Training Division. This course presented our officers and dispatchers with techniques to assist in overcoming implicit bias, utilize productive bias, and improve verbal and nonverbal communication skills immediately. The course covered “all biases, whether implicit or explicit, and examine any that are illicit in nature, particularly as they relate to race and cultural diversity…biases that could cause officers to unconsciously view certain people as inherently dangerous resulting in inaccurate assessments, flawed decisions, unprofessional behavior and unnecessary use of force.”
 
This training was completed during the month of September, and it will further enhance the relationships and trust with the Gloucester Township Police and its community. This topic and training is not new to our agency or its police officers. In 2017, the Gloucester Township Police were forward thinking and committed to providing state of the art training by bringing in Dr. Lorie Fridell, PhD who hosted her organization’s acclaimed “Fair and Impartial Policing” (FIP) Training Program. This type of training for police officers and dispatchers at all levels of the agency helps achieve legitimacy and helps give them knowledge with awareness to strive to treat people with dignity, respect, neutrality and transparency while making just decisions in their daily interactions with the community they serve.
 
We have doubled our efforts through training to be prepared for the next situation that we may have to encounter. Our training staff has stepped up to the challenge of preparing our officers with de-escalation techniques and officer safety principles. Our dispatchers have focused on improving our service to the community. Our civilian staff has developed new ways to continue to support our law enforcement mission, while providing the best customer service possible while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our entire staff is completing the re-certification process for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) Missing Kids Readiness Program. This prestigious program ensures that we employ the best practices for responding to calls of missing, abducted and sexually exploited children, so that we keep our children safe.
 
Over the past year, we have found new ways of connecting with our community, and have greatly strengthened our relationship with our federal, state, county, and surrounding law enforcement partners. We have initiated new programs to ensure our officers, dispatchers, and civilian employees are supported and to become resilient to the challenges that we regularly face by serving in law enforcement.
 
I am proud of how we have handled the challenges of 2020. We are filled with hope and excitement for all the great things to come. The men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department are the best at what they do. We are committed to serving our community and we will strive to do it even better.
 
If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at chief@gtpolice.com.

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