MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Detective Supervisor Patrick LaGuerre of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Bias Crimes Unit joined a virtual teen “table talk” on June 26, 2020.
The Coping with Racism & Police Brutality discussion, organized by Morristown-based Calvary Baptist Church, was co-facilitated by Pastor Jerry M. Carter Jr., Ph.D., Senior Pastor, and Minister Sean Lewis.
Youth attendees were registered for the event by their parents. Overall, the virtual event drew 23 attendees of all ages. Members of the community engaged in candid and honest dialogue, some sharing the distrust and fear they are feeling towards law enforcement. Prosecutor Knapp and Detective Supervisor LaGuerre reinforced that the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office members are available to listen and strive to establish a rapport with all Morris County residents.
Detective Supervisor LaGuerre explained police officers enter into potentially dangerous situations every day, and that, unfortunately, they can encounter people with negative preconceived notions about the police. During the conversation, Prosecutor Knapp shared his own experiences growing up in Irvington, being introduced to law enforcement because his friends had fathers who were police officers.
Prosecutor Knapp and Detective Supervisor LaGuerre encouraged young people to reach out to their local police departments to get to know each other as neighbors.
Morris County law enforcement aims to build trust and connection with its younger citizens through programs such as “Safe Stop,” which educate students on best practices for interactions with police and during traffic stops. Detective Supervisor LaGuerre also hosts bias and bullying awareness presentations at Morris County schools, saying at the end of every presentation, there are students who reach out to him for guidance. Having served in Internal Affairs, Detective Supervisor LaGuerre explained that every citizen complaint against an officer is investigated.
Officers found to have committed serious offenses do not return to duty Detective Supervisor LaGuerre recounted the training and outreach programs held by the Bias Crimes Unit, including presentations at Morris County middle and high schools to educate students about bullying.
Prosecutor Knapp said “We are extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity to listen to the concerns of our youth in this forum sponsored by the Cavalry Baptist Church. At this time of great unrest, we need to hear each other’s concerns, come together, and improve upon relations between the community and law enforcement. This evening’s program was an outstanding step in the right direction.”