Home Moorestown News ‘Communication is key’

‘Communication is key’

Agencies address community safety with local and state leaders

Moorestown hosted a panel on community safety with local, county and state leaders on March 28 to address topics that included initiatives spearheaded by participating agencies.

Guests included Patrick J. Reilly Jr., director of the township police department; Brenda Roman Maneri, a former first assistant in the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office; Weldon A. Powell, chief of detectives for the state Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice; and Moorestown council members Christopher Keating and Sue Mammarella.

“I organized tonight’s panel along with my colleagues to create an opportunity for our residents to connect face to face with the incredible public servants in law enforcement who serve our community day in and day out tirelessly,” Keating said.

“They’re also all Burlington County residents, which just goes to show how invested they are in these issues that affect our community.”

Reilly’s appointment came on the heels of police Chief Walter Walczak’s retirement last year. Reilly came to Moorestown after about 14 years with the Burlington County Bridge Commission as its director of public safety and homeland security. Prior to that, he logged 25 years with the state police, where his duties ran the gamut from field operations and investigations to information technology.

Reilly retired from the state police as a captain. His primary goal for Moorestown police is to provide growth opportunities for those interested in the department, guiding and elevating them accordingly.

“ … We have unmarked vehicles, so people don’t think that we’re out there moving around in the areas of concern …” he explained. “Our guys are out there, so we’re making sure that when these areas are getting hit, then we are putting extra patrols in there at night.

“It seemed as though some of the concerns I would hear from residents are that we don’t see them (police), that all they do is drive past,” Reilly added. “One of the things I did pretty quickly is put them out on foot patrol on Main Street … As the weather progresses, (they’ll) be getting back out there and moving around and getting back out to the parks where the games are and the kids are and keeping that interaction and keeping that visual ability between us and the residents.”

Reilly also touched on another issue: traffic.

“That seemed to be a high priority as well, with some of the issues being that we have county roads going through, which kind of stumbles us in getting things done in a quick manner,” he noted. “ … We’re looking at that to try to reduce some speeds on some of the roadways.

“To assist with that, we’ve found some areas where we might be able to make some headway, but we’re still looking at that.”

Maneri began her legal career at the Kings County District Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, according to the prosecutor’s office website. After moving back to New Jersey, she worked as an assistant prosecutor in Burlington County for eight years, spending most of her time as a supervisor in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit.

After leaving the prosecutor’s office in 1998, Maneri worked as a private criminal-defense attorney. She has argued cases in appellate court and the state Supreme Court. While in private practice, she frequently represented survivors of domestic violence as a pro bono attorney for Providence House/Catholic Charities.

“Probably one of the biggest things that we (Maneri and county Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw) started as we took office (in 2022) was a program to reduce gun violence,” Maneri recalled. “We decided that the best way to get guns off the street so that there would be less gun homicides is to respond to any shooting …”

“We’re very proud to say that in the first 19 months, there were no homicides that were committed by guns, and we believe that there’s a correlation between our investigation of the no-hit shootings.”

Maneri also mentioned how the county prosecutor’s office has been working on restorative justice initiatives, trying to divert low-level offenders from the criminal justice system and into diversion programs.

“We created this bias adjustment program, where an officer, if they’re responding to a bias incident that does not include a violent offense, but maybe it’s just a neighborhood dispute, people are calling people names …” Maneri explained. “We try to divert that offender to a program where they are mandated to go to one-session counseling, but it’s a two-and-a-half-hour workshop where they can learn the danger of hateful words.”

Powell supervises 200 detectives assigned to all Division of Criminal Justice offices, bureaus and units who conduct investigations into criminal activity within the state’s 21 counties, according to the attorney general’s office website. Powell is responsible for oversight of officer-involved shootings and death in custody investigations and for ensuring compliance with the attorney general’s directives and guidelines, from police professional standards to bias incident standards.

“Communication is key,” Powell maintained. “This is not the first time I’m meeting the first assistant or your director of public safety … I can’t emphasize this enough: You’re a key part of that communication with your reports, so that old adage, ‘If you see something, say something,’ is extremely important.”

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