The Civil Rights Protection Project contacted Linda Ortiz at the US Department of Justice about community relations in Jersey City after Police Officer Melvin Santiago was murdered on July 13th responding to a robbery call.
July 15, 2014
US Department of Justice
Community Relations Service
26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278
Re: Jersey City community relations
I am writing on behalf of our organization in seeking formal guidance from Community Relations Services. As you know from our past interaction on police-related use of force incidents we are dedicated to fostering open dialogue with police officials and community leaders. I personally have been involved in 8 post-incident shootings in the last three years both on behalf of police officers who comprise a large segment of our membership and on behalf of community stakeholders.
On July 13th Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago was assassinated as he responded to a robbery call. The alleged assailant Lawrence Campbell was shot and killed by Jersey City Police. Prior to this horrific crime, Lavon King was shot and killed by Jersey City Police on June 24th and city officials have not released information to the public regarding that incident.
We previously reached out to Mayor Steven Fulop regarding our concerns of public
tension as we work with other community leaders and have yet to receive a response from Mr. Fulop. Over the past two nights Jersey City police have been attacked by criminals during the course of their duties protecting the community and confirmed threats against police were published in media accounts following the King shooting. Last night, Jersey City public workers removed two makeshift shines to Campbell and King that adds to the lack of communication from city and police officials to the stakeholders in local neighborhoods. Adding to the
miscommunication and absence of a cohesive message from law enforcement officials are the facts that the current Jersey City Chief of Police was recently demoted and there is a void in leadership at the agency. Same can be said of the Hudson County Prosecutor, who currently fills the position in an acting capacity.
We are very cognizant that Jersey City is a city in mourning and the Police Department is rightfully committing efforts in coming days to pay tribute to Melvin Santiago who was also a member of the National Coalition of Latino Officers, one of our member organizations as are relatives of Melvin’s immediate family. We haven’t lost sight of Melvin’s sacrifice in service to the community or those commitments made by every police officer across this great state and nation that risk their lives for us all daily. We will continue to assist in attending to the needs of the Santiago family and the Jersey City Police Department in its time of such a devastating loss.
Given our experience it is our assessment that your agency’s expertise and resources are urgently needed as soon as practical to work with city and community leaders through this difficult and sorrowful time and we ask for same through this formal communication.
We are forwarding news accounts of the past 48 hours for your review. If you needadditional information or community contacts, do not hesitate to contact us.
Very truly yours,
Civil Rights Protection Project