Richard KovarWhen I think about 2020, it is obvious that the most prominent issue we faced was the global pandemic. During the past year, every member of law enforcement had to deal with the inherent dangers of our jobs along with the additional risk of putting our families at risk as COVID-19 spread through the communities we serve.

Needless to say, 2020 was a difficult, and very different, year for all of us. We should never forget the sacrifice made by law enforcement members who lost their lives serving during this pandemic.

Looking back to recent years past, 2018 is remembered for NJSPBA taking control of our pension system. That was the year in which we finally got legislation approved that separated the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) from the rest of the state’s public employment retirement systems and handed management to a newly constituted board of trustees, with police and fire unions, together, holding a majority of the board seats.

Following that, 2019 was the year of local media presenting click-bait analysis of partial facts and statistics with regard to police use of force throughout New Jersey. While editors in charge of generating anti-police headlines might insist that they are not condemning all of law enforcement, the data important to our members remains a concern to our lives and livelihoods and we will continue to fight against poorly constructed arguments and misinformation wherever it may arise. Yet, public opinion of those who have chosen to protect neighborhoods and communities everywhere plummeted while assaults on police officers have skyrocketed around the country.

Just as there were elected officials willing to do the work with us to establish control of our pensions, we found that many of those holding office remained silent in the face of the debilitating misinformation being put forward into our communities. This is why I continue to preach about how much elections matter and why I will never stop highlighting the need to back up our endorsements with real efforts to support our preferred candidates, candidates that benefit law enforcement. We take our NJSPBA endorsements seriously and so should all of you. The NJSPBA is most effective when we speak with one collective voice and when we stand together for those who actually respect law enforcement.

And we proved again that our endorsements matter in the 2020 election when the NJSPBA backed the re-election of Congressmen Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew as well as State Senator Anthony Bucco. We will continue to endorse candidates based on who is watching out for the men and women of law enforcement, and not based on partisan politics.

NJ State PBA President Pat Colligan and I take pride in knowing that we have always stood up for each and every one of you, and all of your families, in all that we do on behalf of the PBA. We’ve taken our knocks from governors and others in Trenton, and we have never given an inch when it comes to our membership.

We will continue to fight in the press, in Trenton and across the state. But we all need to continue doing whatever we can to make our voices heard. We all need to stand as one. Let’s continue to do what we have done so well and make sure the collective voices of our 33,000 members and their families are heard as one.

The NJSPBA and our Locals ended 2020 in traditional ways by hosting and supporting holiday turkey giveaways and toy drives for the communities we serve. Those volunteer efforts continue to be indicative of the tremendous service our members are providing in streets and in neighborhoods across the state. And we know those efforts are greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I want to remind everybody to keep an eye out for sisters and brothers who might be hurting as we go into the holiday season. We know this is a tough time of year when we see officers taking their own lives. The fatigue of the pandemic will not help this situation. So I urge you more than ever to be your sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.

Also, please join me in sending our condolences and best wishes to the families of State Corrections Local 105 member Erick Whitaker, Old Bridge Local 127 member Chris Cronin,
Sussex County Local 138 member Jason Franco, Hoboken Local 2 member Peter Zanin and Somerset County Sheriff’s Department Officer Ahmed Mackey, who all passed away this month.

Happy New Year! Here’s to a safe, prosperous 2021. I look forward to seeing everyone in this coming year. Stay healthy and be safe.