‘No small feat’

Gloucester Township's police department earns national award for safety practices

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Among speakers at press conference announcing the police award were Chief David Harkins, Deputy Chief Anthony Minosse, Mayor David Mayer and Grace MacAulay from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Gloucester Township Police Department recently held a press conference about its Destination Zero 2023 Comprehensive Safety Award from the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund Museum.

The national honor comes all the way from Washington, D.C, and recognizes a law- enforcement agency that has successfully implemented and promoted the most comprehensive officer safety and wellness programs.

“Receiving this award is no small feat. It has taken years of training, of implementing new programs aimed at officer safety and wellness,” said Mayor David Mayer. “We went up against departments all across the (nation) and came out number one.

“Congratulations to our entire department.”

“The events of this past week have confirmed the need to prepare and train our police officers,” explained Chief David Harkins in the aftermath of a shooting at Philadelphia International Airport that killed veteran officer Richard Mendez.

“We honor (Mendez) and all those officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by being better trained, so that we can carry out the mission of protecting our community.”

The police department enhanced its training program by installing a new VirTra Simulator to enhance critical decision-making skills with use-of-force training in situations like domestic violence, active shooter and other high-stress encounters. The device also includes interactive scenarios for hostage negotiations, drunk drivers and even the most obscure situations.

“We take (safety) duties here in Gloucester Township very seriously,” Harkins emphasized. “The purchase of this advanced critical decision-making simulator was made possible after the (department) was awarded competitive federal funding through a Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services FY22 Law Enforcement Agency De-Escalation grant,” said Lt. Don Gansky, community relations officer.

“I think the difference for the use of this system is that every time, we critique and learn (from practice) using the model,” Harkins observed. “This gets our officers better communication skills to be able to have great outcomes from (every) situation …

“Confident officers perform better.”

The simulator also causes electrical stimulation if an officer is being fired on.

“Every day Chief Harkins and his command staff come to work trying to be better than they were the day before,” said state Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, who presented Harkins and Deputy Chief Anthony Minosse with a state Senate resolution that recognizes the department’s safety award on behalf of the state assembly.

“This will not be the last,” Moriarty added.

Gloucester Township residents can see the press conference and a live-action simulation on the police YouTube page.

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