Hudson County Freeholders nix ‘riot gear’ resolution after backlash

The resolution was removed after residents complained of the proposed purchase

The Sheriff's Office had requested a number of items to deal with "civil disobedience."
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The Sheriff's Office had requested a number of items to deal with "civil disobedience."

After online backlash from residents, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders has decided to remove a resolution from their June 11 agenda that, if adopted, would purchase more than $97,000 in riot and tactical gear for various law enforcement agencies across the county.

The resolution was nixed amid nationwide protests against police brutality.

Demonstrations have been erupting across the country in response to police brutality against African Americans, specifically the death of George Floyd by police. Floyd was an unarmed African-American man who was killed in Minneapolis when police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd was later pronounced dead. Chauvin has since been fired and charged with murder and manslaughter. In response to mass demonstrations, Chauvin’s charges were upgraded, and the other police officers on the scene during the call have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the commission of a felony.

Now, local activists in Hudson County can claim a small victory toward their goal of stopping police brutality.

Tactical equipment and ammunition

The resolution called for the purchase of tactical equipment and ammunition for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, 150 riot helmets for the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, and 75 expandable batons for the Hudson County Correctional Center.

Collectively, the purchases would have totaled $97,278,66, with $60,731.51 for the Prosecutor’s Office, $25,779.40 for the Sheriff’s Office, and $10,767.75 for the Correctional Center.

The equipment would have been purchased from Atlantic Tactical out of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

The request by the Sheriff’s Office was made on June 3, in a letter to the Board of Freeholders, while the other requests were made earlier in the year, prior to the protests.

Sherriff Frank Schillari had asked for the Freeholders to fund more than just the purchase of riot helmets. He also asked for tear gas, riot control grenades, and foam bullets in his letter. Schillari wrote that these items are essential during a “civil disturbance,” and that a large law enforcement response is required to “restore order” in the case of a protest turning violent.

The resolution initially caused an uproar online by local black activist groups in Hudson County. Black in Bayonne was one of the groups that drew attention to the issue, calling on their followers to call or message the Freeholders, complaining about the resolution.

After mounting pressure, the Hudson County Executive’s Office released a statement announcing that the resolution had been removed from the Freeholder’s agenda.

“After consultation with the Sheriff’s Office and members of the Board of Freeholders this resolution will not go forward,” according to a statement by the Hudson County Executive’s Office.

Resolution removed

Some residents were quick to ask why the Sheriff’s Office was involved in the decision and if this meant that only the gear requested by the Sheriff’s Office would be removed from the resolution.

“The Sherriff’s Office was consulted because the Sheriff is an independent constitutional officer and had to agree with the decision,” according to the Executive’s Office.

After the Sheriff’s Office agreed to drop their request, the Executive’s Office clarified that all the proposed items in the resolution’s article are not moving forward.

Black in Bayonne responded to the cancellation on social media. Due to the demands of local residents, change has been effected.

“Hudson County has decided to cancel the resolution due to the volume of complaints they have received throughout the day,” according to a social media post by Black in Bayonne.

However, the HCPO had not dropped their request for tactical gear and ammunition before the caucus meeting, totaling approximately $60,000. The other two law enforcement agencies have both dropped their respective requests.

As a result, that item remained on the agenda for the regular meeting on Thursday, June 11. At the meeting, Freeholders tabled the item.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.