By REBECCA HERSH
EDISON – Edison police officers are starring in a new police program called COP that, in spite of lacking dramatic plots, nevertheless scores high ratings with Edison Township residents.
COP is short for Community Oriented Policing, and its focus is on police officers working with individual community members as friends and neighbors –a boots-on-the-ground initiative whose primary weapons are listening, talking and finding solutions.
“We look for ways to solve problems,” said COP’s leader Sgt. Donald Ship, who noted that the Edison Police COP initiative went live at the end of March on Zoom.
The conversation featured Chief of Police Thomas Bryan with the COP unit members – Ship, Officer Jennifer Iorio and Officer Shirley Dong – answering questions from members of the public.
The second COP chat occurred on May 20, during which Officer Melissa Michalak from the Firearms Unit explained the NJ Firearms Permit application process.
Most recently on July 12, the COP Unit, intent on getting to know all segments of the Edison community, distributed Operation Chill free Slurpee coupons to children attending the Kiddie Keep Well Camp courtesy of 7-Eleven.
Kiddie Keep Well Camp provides summertime fun to less privileged children at no cost; the staff at Kiddie Keep Well Camp invited the Edison Police COP unit to spend time with staff and campers.
And on Aug. 3, COP will have the leading role in the town’s National Night Out event, a community festival featuring an outdoor movie, food stalls and carnival games to foster positive police-community relations. The event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Edison Municipal Complex, Papaianni Park, 100 Municipal Blvd. For more info or to get involved in the celebration, call 732-248-7440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
During the last quarter of 2020, Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey moved forward with the addition of 28 new police officers, and thus provided the human resources needed to start the COP initiative, whose goal was to solve problems in the community.
After more than a decade of cuts and downsizing in the police department, necessitating a reduction of specialization and elimination of several units, in 2020 Edison moved forward with a paradigm shift responding to the traumatic year characterized by a pandemic and strained police/community relations in towns throughout the country.
Centralized within the chief’s office, a new Traffic Unit and COP Unit were formed. Under a community oriented policing umbrella, units such as CompStat (performance management system), COP and TRAFFIC have been cooperating and coordinating together, along with traditional bureaus and units, to deal with community based issues and by doing so thwart the crimes that often arise from unresolved community problems.
Ship, who has been with the Edison Police Department for 10 years and headed a patrol unit until last October, was tapped to lead the COP initiative.
“As a patrol officer, I always believed in getting out and meeting the residents – and listening to the residents – on a daily basis – in a non-crisis/non-emergent situation. It is the best way to attain a safer community and community with a better quality of life,” Ship said. “It is crucial to get to know people living in your town and the rhythm of their lives.”
Ship said he is particularly proud of COP’s faith-based initiative that he launched for the purpose of interacting with Edison’s very diverse group of places of worship.
“It is a great opportunity to understand the needs and priorities of the various congregations. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback,” he said.