Borough of Palmyra Police Department working to educate community members

The department holds various programs, including police academies and meet and greets.

Patrolman Jeremy Janowski, Chief Scott Pearlman and Lieutenant Meghan Campbell stand outside the Palmyra Police Station. The department recently purchased body-worn cameras for all officers.

Located on Palmyra’s Broad Street in the same building as the borough office is the Borough of Palmyra Police Department, the full-service police department that keeps Palmyra safe around the clock.

At the head of the department is Chief Scott Pearlman. Before joining the department, Pearlman worked at Goodyear Tire in Palmyra. After joining the department part-time, it took him 10 years to decide he wanted to do police work full-time, despite always wanting to be a police officer growing up.

The department strives to be as involved as possible with the community. This starts with community outreach and holding various events such as Coffee with a Cop and National Night Out. These events aid in establishing trust between the police department and members of the community.

In addition to meet and greet events, the department also holds multiple police academy programs for residents. The first Citizen’s Police Academy class graduated on Friday, Nov. 11. The idea for a Citizen’s Police Academy came from the already-existing Senior Citizen’s Police Academy and Junior Police Academy.

The Senior Citizen’s Police Academy focuses on providing information on safety issues that are important to seniors. It helps seniors protect themselves from violence, accidents and consumer fraud.

The Junior Police Academy is a program held for one week at the end of July each year that is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The kids attend for approximately seven hours each day and learn about everything from police equipment to detective work. They even have the chance to visit the Philadelphia SWAT unit, practice using a fire hose, and this past year they were able to tour Virtua Hospital and see the morgue.

“They do physical training just like you would in a police academy, and we teach them how to march a little bit,” Pearlman said. “We do everything we can in that one-week period.”

This year’s Citizen’s Police Academy for adults included a trip to Central Communications, a handgun simulation and a ride-along night that allowed the class to see the patrolmen in action.

Pearlman added that none of the programs are meant to recruit people, but rather to provide community members an insight into what the police department does — which is much more than most residents are aware of.

“When you watch cop shows on TV or you go to the movies, you don’t see the paperwork end of how tied up officers are just from even what might look like a very simple arrest,” Pearlman said.

The department recently purchased body-worn cameras for all officers, which are now in full use. The cameras are activated whenever an officer is responding to a call or interacting with a resident. These cameras, in addition to the cameras mounted in the police vehicles, allow the department the opportunity to see exactly what happened whenever they get a complaint or if there is a discrepancy.

“People get stopped by police, they have their perception of what happened, we have our perception. Sometimes they’re different, sometimes they meet in the middle,” Pearlman said. “Body-worn cameras give us something to go back to.”

Pearlman added that while the cameras are not a cure-all, they have been a huge help in documenting calls.

The department also takes pride in protecting Palmyra’s youth. It recently hosted the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey program at Palmyra High School. This one-hour program was held earlier this month and was open to all Palmyra residents. Discussion topics included the importance of a caregiver’s role in substance abuse prevention, signs of use and abuse to look for and current trends of use.

“Our school resource officer is trying to bring as much education to the schools as we can,” Pearlman said.

All of the programs put on by the department serve to better educate the community while simultaneously aiming to build a relationship and establish trust within the community.

“I think we have a pretty good relationship [with the community]. We’re not making everybody happy all the time. It’s just impossible in our line of work,” Pearlman said. “There’s going to be people that think that we should do more than what we do. Some people are going to think we do too much.”

Building a good relationship between the department and the community starts with building a good relationship within the department. Lt. Meghan Campbell says she feels the department has a great dynamic.

“Everybody gets along. We have a good, close-knit group of guys,” Campbell said. “Everybody is friends with each other outside of work and at work.”

Pearlman followed up by saying that it’s important to keep in mind that the police department’s biggest goal is to protect and serve the community, and they they genuinely care.

“If they take the uniform off, they’re no different than you,” Pearlman said.