The men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department prepare to celebrate a very special time of the year for law enforcement. Police Appreciation Week is celebrated May 11-15 this year, with a special somber remembrance on National Peace Officer Memorial Day on May 15. On this day, we remember and we honor our brother and sister officers in law enforcement who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and serving our communities. This year has been especially a bitter time as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. It is difficult to get a good accounting of the deadly toll this invisible killer on law enforcement, but the Fraternal Order of Police National Lodge reporting 92 COVID-19 Line of Duty Law Enforcement Deaths, including 9 from New Jersey. In addition another 46 Peace Officer have been killed in the Line of Duty by non-COVID-19 means (gunfire, auto crashes, other weapons, etc.).
This year has been especially difficult, as we are unable to honor these heroes as we normally would. At the very beginning of the pandemic, our region suffered the horrific loss of Philadelphia Police Department SWAT Sgt. James O’Connor. Sgt. O’Connor was shot and killed by a murder suspect, while he was serving an arrest warrant. Our normal response would be to put on our dress uniforms, and honor our brother officer at a police funeral. Because of the pandemic we have not been able to provide Sgt. O’Connor and the others with the honors they deserve. Typically we wear our “mourning bands” over our badges on National Peace Officer Memorial Day, and the days after a Peace Officer passes. As a special honor to the Peace Officers lost to COVID-19, the Officers of the Gloucester Township Police Department have been wearing our “mourning bands” over our badges, and will continue to do so until this pandemic is over.
While conducting law enforcement operations during this pandemic is something that we never thought we would have to do; I still find myself in awe by the way the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department have responded. The sense of purpose and resolve demonstrated by everyone at GTPD is remarkable. The courage demonstrated by these men and women on the frontlines has been inspiring. They have pulled together and demonstrated Servant Leadership to our community at an unprecedented level. On one hand, I have seen our Officers motivated by a warrior spirit to take on threats that endanger our community. At the same time, they have shown the love of a guardian heart when helping those in need.
The thanks and support provided to us by the community of Gloucester Township has been at times, overwhelming and humbling. We are tremendously grateful for the love and support we have received. On behalf of all the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department, I thank all of you for your unwavering support.
We still have many challenges ahead of us. You should be confident that the men and women of the Gloucester Township Police Department will be up to any challenge that we encounter. I have never been prouder to serve side by side with the Officers, Dispatchers, and Civilian Staff of the Gloucester Township Police Department. They are truly Servant Leaders of our community.
David J. Harkins
Chief of Police
Gloucester Township Police Department