Edison’s top official is speaking out against the death of George Floyd, hate crimes and racial injustice.
Mayor Thomas Lankey released a statement on June 5:
“These are painful and difficult times. The murder of George Floyd further exposed the deep divisions that still exist in our country and has shown us all how much more work needs to be done to root out racism in our communities. The police officers responsible for this atrocious event have been rightfully charged and will face the consequences for this horrific crime, but that does not begin to put an end to the pain felt by so many across our country.
“As mayor, and as an individual who cares for those around me, I realize that the best thing I can do at this moment is listen. There are so many people in this country that have been impacted by the evils of racism long before the tragic events in Minneapolis and they are using this spotlight to tell their story. It is up to me, and to all of us, to listen to these experiences and use this moment in history to effectuate long-lasting meaningful change in our society.
“I have also received emails asking for new regulations for our police in Edison. I will say, unequivocally, that I stand with the great men and women of the Edison Police Department. We have taken great strides in focusing on infusing our department with a diversity that reflects our very diverse community. We have all worked hard to maintain open dialogues with all of our community leaders and, as a result, we have great working relationships and great friendships with these leaders and within the various communities throughout our town.
“We take great pride in our department and the men and women who pledged an oath to protect our streets and neighborhoods. Resident safety is our job 24/7 and we have always made that our priority. Our officers are among the best trained in the state, with multiple training sessions throughout the year as mandated through the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. We are constantly examining best practices adopted by other agencies and our current regulations have even been endorsed by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The training undertaken by each and every member of the Edison Police Department is extensive and effective in teaching our officers about community policing, fighting against racism, bias management, diversity in policing and proper use of force techniques. We also implemented the use of body-worn cameras a few years ago to not only provide a record of each encounter between law enforcement and the public, but also to help continue to build trust between police and those they have sworn to protect. This body-worn camera footage is reviewed by supervisors and is also used as an additional training tool for our officers.
“These are truly difficult times and we are all experiencing them together. My office has a tremendous working partnership with our police, our fire and all of the first responders serving our community on the front lines. Over the last few months we have all seen what happens when we work together, fighting against the deadly COVID-19. Through social distancing and staying home where possible and generally looking out for each other we have been able to save countless lives.
“But the enemy we are confronting now is vastly different. Hundreds of years of racism cannot be wiped out overnight but the peaceful protests, the frank discussions taking place and the voices crying out for change are helping to begin to open lines of communication. I know that for me, it has given me a lot to consider and the conversation has only just begun,” Lankey said.
Bernard F. Bragen Jr., superintendent of schools, also sent a message to the school district condemning the actions surrounding Floyd’s death.
“It is important that our community members know that we cannot sit idly by without having an open, honest and frank discussion about how much more work needs to be done in our society so this never happens again. As a school community, we must set an example of what it really means to support all of its members and, more importantly, we must ensure that our community knows that we are truly here for them during this uneasy time. The reality that inequities exist in our society where segments of our populace enjoy more privilege than others cannot be debated. Today more than ever, it remains incumbent on all of us to work toward a fairer society that lives up to expectations of which all races and cultures can be proud. While there is a great amount of work that needs to be completed collectively, we must also make a personal commitment to use our own stations to raise all members of our community. Everyone must enjoy equal access and respect across all domains of our society.
“As a school district, we remain committed to our students and their wellbeing. This includes the provision of safe places were sensitive discussions about race and privilege can occur in an atmosphere of support and understanding. It is our hope that out of this tragedy and its aftermath, that our country and school community will work to gain a greater understanding of the deficits that exist in our society so that we may find solutions that point to a more hopeful future. It is our sincere belief that our common humanity unites us more than those things in the fabric of our society that are used to segregate us and create division. This painful time demands that school communities engage in difficult conversations that will ultimately advance equity for all people. Recent events have highlighted the need for change; this can only occur through hard work and dialogue. The Edison Public School District remains committed to working together with the community to create an optimistic future for all citizens.”