Police Chief Robert Dowd started a community relations program in North Bergen two years ago that he hoped would set a new standard for bridging gaps between communities and law enforcement officers who serve them.
Known as N.B. T.A.P.S. (North Bergen Township Alternative Policing Strategy), a series of four meetings are held every month in different areas of town to hold productive, face-to-face conversations about issues the community may be facing.
“People want a place to share their frustrations and complaints, knowing that their voice will be heard,” Captain David Corbisiero said. “My goal is to treat everyone here going through an issue as though it was a relative going through it.”
“To see more departments follow Chief Dowd’s idea would be the greatest compliment to this program I could imagine” – Captain Dave Corbisiero
A place to be heard
Whether a meeting takes place in either of the two public libraries, the Board of Commissioners Chambers, or at Our Lady of Fatima Church, the public is welcome to come forward with any topic they wish to discuss with their local department members. These areas of town were chosen so that every neighborhood had an accessible spot for the community forum.
The officer acting as a head of each police division is present at every meeting.
“Some residents face issues that they feel are too small or insignificant to notify dispatch or call the department about. I always try to put myself in their shoes,” Corbisiero said. “We hope these meetings help demonstrate that no issue is too small, or too big, for us to take care of. Some complaints might seem minor on the surface, but the issues are significant to the people who face them every day.”
The meetings have also helped the department spread important public information that requires detailed conversation.
“We had huge turnouts when roadwork on the 495 viaduct diverted traffic into local streets,” Corbisiero said. “Just being able to explain to people new traffic patterns and what our suggestions were relieved a lot of the traffic, which had really built up in the beginning.”
Cpt. Corbisiero found that just having that level of department presence in an informal, comfortable setting was a solution in and of itself.
“To see more departments follow Chief Dowd’s idea would be the greatest compliment to this program I could imagine.”
Mike Montemarano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org