‘Rob knew all the names’
The streets of Glen Ridge overflowed with masked residents on May 14, saluting, crossing hands over hearts and raising signs to honor Officer Charles “Rob” Roberts during a three-mile procession through the town of 7,800 people.
In an unprecedented display, roughly 90 percent of the community – donning bright orange and blue for his beloved Mets – settled along the route on porches and sidewalks, waiting to pay their respects to one of the town’s most lauded heroes. And it’s likely that Rob knew every person in attendance.
Roberts wasn’t just woven into the fabric of Glen Ridge – he was the fabric itself.
Unofficially dubbed “Mr. Glen Ridge,” the officer’s 20-year career deeply rooted him in the culture of his town, both on and off duty.
“You get to know a lot of faces and a lot of names, and Rob knew all the names,” Glen Ridge Local 58 President Joseph Uliano shared. “That’s a testament to him. Never missing a town event, never missing a sporting event – and coaching every possible sport you can coach. I don’t think any of us will ever be able to bring ourselves up to that level and fill that void.”
Roberts grew up in Livingston before joining the Glen Ridge Police Department in 2000 and serving as a former executive board member of Glen Ridge Local 58. The officer devoted his life to his family: three children, Shea, Natalie and Gavin, and beloved wife, Alice Baker-Roberts, who has taught in the local school district since 1997.
Roberts was a bicycle officer and DARE instructor, which helped him get acquainted with the parents of students in the community. He held the distinction of the most senior officer within the patrol division and served as a detective and a field training officer within the department.
He was also a proud participant of the Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Tunnel to Towers Run. As Uliano puts it, Roberts knew everybody on every front.
“He was always there to lend a helping hand in any way he could,” Uliano posited. “He always went above and beyond for everybody.”
Roberts suffered a cardiac arrest on April 21 and was brought to the hospital after being resuscitated by his colleagues. After a courageous three-week battle against COVID-19, he passed away on May 11, at the age of 45. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant at his memorial on May 14.
“He’s going to be deeply missed,” Uliano emoted. “There’s no other way to articulate that other than saying how entrenched he was in the community.”
The treasured officer heeded a profound calling to be there for all the members of his community, particularly those without homes. Whenever he could, he would go to a local sandwich shop and drop off a meal for them, never expecting anything in return.
“His kindness was never a sign of weakness,” Uliano affirmed. “We’re trained in de-escalation. And Rob never really needed to be taught that, that was just his way about him. He always extended his hand to the needy and believed that we shouldn’t stereotype anyone.”
As an avid supporter of the State PBA and law enforcement officer rights, Roberts would likely have a succinct message for any brothers and sisters in blue lined across the procession route, according to Uliano:
Officer safety first. Take care of the brotherhood. Make sure everyone goes home at the end of their shifts. And give back to the community as much as possible.