When I think about this past year, it is strange to recall just how much the global pandemic continues to impact our work and family lives. Our members, and law enforcement officers everywhere, continue to run headfirst into the danger of our jobs without any deterrent from the additional challenges presented by the roller coaster that has been COVID and its variants.
I would like to take the time and thank each of you for that. The challenges and inherent dangers you face each day have only been heightened by this continued health hazard and I am proud to stand by each of your sides and call you my brother or sister.
The past year was once again a difficult one for law enforcement. From attacks on qualified immunity protections, unjust media criticisms and even efforts in places throughout our country to defund police, our profession continues to be targeted. And, of course, these attacks do not even represent our greatest risk.
The recent murders of police officers remind us of the sacrifices made by so many law enforcement officers who have lost their lives serving and protecting the public. As violent crime rises, so does the on-the-job risk for law enforcement. As recently as Dec. 3, a 21-year veteran of the Mesquite (Texas) Police Department, Officer Richard Houston, was gunned down as he responded to a disturbance call. He was a married father of three children.
You do not need to be reminded of the fact that we serve communities across New Jersey in a profession unlike any other. We leave the house every day with a potential to be confronted with great risk to individual safety while facing down the possibility of conflict, assault and even death.
These are just some of the reasons why NJSPBA President Pat Colligan and I will continue to fight every day to make sure you receive everything you have earned, regardless the opponent. We go to work every day with the singular focus of protecting our members and our profession against unfair mischaracterizations and the ludicrous labeling of law enforcement as an unnecessary expense. And we will continue to stand together and fight for our profession, including pursuing every avenue possible to improve benefits and pay.
Together, we’ve accomplished a lot, but there is always more to achieve. The new year brings the next challenges, along with a new Senate President, Nick Scutari. We have always had a good working relationship with Senator Scutari, and we will keep pushing forward with him, the rest of the Senate and Assembly leadership and legislators and representatives throughout our state to make sure you and your families always have a seat at the table where the life-impacting decisions are made.
That fight for better benefits and better work environments will never stop. But the most important thing we can do each day is to look out for each other and make it home safely to your families at the end of each shift.
I hope you had the opportunity to help celebrate the holidays by participating in NJSPBA and Local PBA food and toy drives for the communities we serve. Your contributions to the causes enable so many citizens to have a happy holiday that they might not otherwise have enjoyed.
Happy New Year! Here’s to a safe, prosperous, new year in 2022. Please continue to pray for all the law enforcement lives we have lost and for the continued safety of the men and women who continue to risk their lives to keep our communities safe. I look forward to seeing everyone in the new year.
Stay healthy and be safe!