NORTHFIELD — City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night in support of the city’s Police Department, but not without pushback from two council members who believe the timing of the resolution was not ideal.
The resolution, introduced by Councilman Brian Smith, states that the city “recognizes the extreme danger that comes with the chosen profession of law enforcement. Each day when the men and women of our law enforcement agencies don their uniform and equipment, they are accepting the responsibility to serve and protect the lives and property of their communities at all cost, which could include their life.”
Smith said the resolution allowed council to show support for law enforcement officers, from local to state police, who protect communities “as they have been under attack nationwide.”
Not everyone agreed.
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Councilwomen Susan Korngut and Barbara Anne Madden voted against the resolution.
“I want to protect our citizens, I want to protect our police,” Korngut said. “I would suggest at this time that we table this and give me an opportunity to meet with the chief (of police), meet with our Police Department and put out a joint resolution or joint statement. But with tensions running high and people outside, the best thing to do is table it.”
During the council meeting, more than 200 people rallied outside City Hall in support of the Police Department after posts on social media indicated Korngut wanted to defund the police, which she said is untrue.
“I am not proposing defunding Northfield police nor did I ever say I was,” she said in a statement on her Facebook page.
The Tuesday night rally remained peaceful, but Mayor Erland Chau said there were added costs to making sure there were enough police and public works personnel to contain the crowd. A portion of Shore Road in front of City Hall was closed due to the rally, and Chau said Linwood and Somers Point police were on standby.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Korngut suggested ironing out points in the resolution and “come out together as a united front, which we are no matter what,” and expressed support for a committee reviewing the Police Department’s policies and procedures.
While Madden said she “wholeheartedly” supports the police, she felt the timing of the resolution couldn’t be worse.
“It’s not an issue of supporting the police; this town and council always supported the police,” she said. “I just feel at this time to put forth a resolution was not in good taste. At this time, it could be very offensive or insensitive.”
Tensions have remained high across the country since George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minnesota in May, sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
During the Northfield meeting, Councilman Paul Utts — who voted in favor of the resolution — said he shares Korngut’s concerns about systemic racism and the need to revisit public safety.
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“We have seen a lot of bad behavior in many of our nation’s police departments, but not here,” he said of Northfield.
While Smith said the resolution wasn’t about race, he respected the other council members’ viewpoints.
“There is no place for racism in our society,” he said. “By no means am I saying reforms can’t or shouldn’t be pursued. But the bottom line is, I felt that we need to show support of those people who put their lives on the line on a daily basis.”
He added the residents who showed up in support of the police Tuesday night “show what kind of community we have.”
The Police Department issued a statement Wednesday thanking residents for voicing their opinions at the rally.
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“In such uncertain times in our nation and whilst still responding to calls for service in the middle of a pandemic, it is nice to know that the job of law enforcement is not going unnoticed,” the statement read. “There are not enough words to express the gratitude and pride we feel in deciding to serve in this profession and specifically serving the City of Northfield. The time you took out of your evening to be there for us and stand up for our city alongside us will never be forgotten.”
Police Chief Paul Newman could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday afternoon.