Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic of systemic racism has been exposed. Many residents have called for defunding their local police departments, but not in North Bergen.
According to federal data, since 2007, many departments are becoming more white compared to their communities. North Bergen topped the list of local police departments that bucked the trend and became more diverse.
Union City and West New York, too
Mayor Nicholas Sacco touted the data, analyzed by the NYTimes, that showed that the North Bergen Police Department became more diverse and less white in comparison to the community from 2007 to 2016.
“While there has been much discussion around the country about police reform in recent months, I believe it is crucially important to support our local police departments and give them the personnel, resources, and tools they need to keep our community safe,” Sacco said on social media.
According to the NYTimes, more than two-thirds of police departments with more than 100 officers that reported data in 2007 and 2016 had become whiter in comparison the communities they serve.
The NBPD, with more than 119 officers, was one of the few municipalities that did not follow that trend and has become closer to representing the racial makeup of its community.
Also on the list were Union City and West New York. Both have become more diverse since 2007, with the Union City Police Department now only three percent more white than its community, and the West New York Police Department just eight percent more white than its community.
More work to do
“One of the ways we have acted to improve police-community relations is by making the North Bergen Police Department more diverse by exclusively hiring North Bergen residents for new positions,” Sacco said.
He continued: “Hiring local residents means that our officers have a deeper connection to our community and stronger relationships with residents, and we will continue to invest in our NBPD by providing opportunities for local residents to become a part of it.”
While North Bergen has improved since 2007, the Township has a ways to go until the police department proportionately represents the community. According to the data, despite the increase in diversity, North Bergen’s police department is still 25 percent whiter than the community it serves.
Supporting police and protesters
Sacco has stood by the Township’s police department since demonstrations began in June in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Sacco has been supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, noting that Floyd’s death is “a stark reminder of the work that still must be done to tackle institutional racism.” He marched with protesters during the North Hudson Black Lives Matter demonstration on June 9.
While Sacco has offered his support to the movement, he hasn’t wavered from his support of the NBPD.
“I take a particular amount of pride in our North Bergen Police Department, which has made extraordinary strides in recent years to become more diverse and to work hard every day to strengthen its relationships with our residents,” he said.
From participating in community events and organizing proactive meetings with residents, to using technology and de-escalation tactics to reduce the use of force, Sacco said the NBPD has become a model of what a modern police department should be.
The Township recently promoted seven officers and looks to hire more, according to Police Chief Peter Fasilis.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.