Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Badge is Really a Shield

"Badge" may be the word we commonly use, but many police officers use the term "shield," and technically, they are correct in doing so. Modern police badges are the direct descendants of the warrior shields of ancient times.

And police badges today perform the function of a warrior’s shield all too often. Going back through the decades, there are countless stories of police officers’ badges deflecting weapons and even bullets. The badges are frequently credited with saving an officer’s life.

Such a story was reported just this week.

In Oakland, Tennessee, Officer Joshua Smith pulled over a vehicle in the early morning hours on Christmas Eve. During the stop the driver pulled out a gun and fired at the officer at point-blank range.

Officer Smith was wearing body armor – commonly but erroneously referred to by the public as a "bullet-proof vest." At point-blank range a bullet could penetrate the vest. Even if the vest stopped the bullet, point-blank impact could cause life-threatening injury. However, in this case the bullet struck the officer’s badge.

The impact bent the badge and knocked Officer Smith to the ground, but even so he was able to fire two shots of his own at the fleeing gunman. The officer was examined at a local hospital and released. Officer Smith has no doubt that in this case, his shield saved his life.

In 2007 an officer in New York City was attacked by a man with a kitchen knife. The knife struck the officer’s badge and shattered into five pieces. The New York officer, Stuart Ingram, later remarked that his shield probably saved his life. He too was wearing body armor, but body armor can be pierced by a knife.

Such episodes are not common but occur often enough to remind us of the origin of the term "shield" to describe a police badge.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Steal, Except...

On Wednesday of this week the Associated Press ran this story:

LONDON — For a priest in northern England, the commandment that dictates "thou shalt not steal" isn't exactly written in stone.

The Rev. Tim Jones caused an uproar by telling his congregation that it is sometimes acceptable for desperate people to shoplift — as long as they do it at large national chain stores, rather than small, family businesses.

As you might guess, this has caused a slight commotion. Media attention was brought to Father Jones, and the Church of England was moved to issue a statement rejecting the view that shoplifting can be socially acceptable.

And as you also might guess, there is more to the story than the notion that shoplifting might be viewed by the church as acceptable if the shopliftee is a bog-box store rather than a neighborhood mom-n-pop store.

Father Jones, the report continued, stands by his remarks and explained the context, which was that shoplifting by the needy may be absolutely necessary when all other avenues are closed. His point, consistent with church teaching but made in an exceptionally clumsy manner, was that society must not turns its back on those most in need.

That fundamental lesson about charity always resonates at this time of year. But shoplifting is not a part of that lesson.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Crime Recession

In its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report released today, the FBI indicated a significant decrease in crime during the first six months of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008.

The volume of violent crime in the nation decreased 4.4 percent and the volume of property crime declined 6.1 percent. More than 11,700 law enforcement agencies contributed to the report.

All four of the offenses that make up violent crime (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) decreased nationwide. Murder declined 10.0 percent, robbery fell 6.5 percent, forcible rape decreased 3.3 percent, and aggravated assault declined 3.2 percent.

A review of the data by population group showed that violent crime decreased 7.0 percent in cities with populations of 1 million or more – the largest decrease from January to June 2009 when compared with crime data from the same months in 2008 – but cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999 reported an increase (1.7 percent). Violent crime declined 3.8 percent in the nation’s non-metropolitan counties and 2.1 percent in metropolitan counties.

By region, violent crime in the South declined 6.1 percent, violent crime in the Midwest decreased 3.4 percent, violent crime in the West declined 3.3 percent, and violent crime in the Northeast decreased 3.2 percent. In addition, law enforcement agencies in all four regions showed declines in the number of murders, forcible rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults.

Overall in the nation, there were decreases in each type of property crime, which includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Motor vehicle theft dropped 18.7 percent, larceny-theft decreased 5.3 percent, and burglary declined 2.5 percent for the two six-month periods.

By population group, the nation’s largest cities (those with 1 million or more inhabitants) had the largest decrease (7.7 percent) in the number of property crimes. Property crime decreased 9.8 percent in non-metropolitan counties and 7.4 percent in metropolitan counties.

Regionally, property crime dropped 8.4 percent in the Midwest, 7.0 percent in the Northeast, 6.7 percent in the West, and 4.3 percent in the South. Among the four regions, the South was the only region to show an increase for a property crime offense – burglaries were up 0.7 percent.

The number of reported arsons, which are tracked separately from other property crimes, declined 8.2 percent nationwide during the first half of 2009 when compared with data from the first half of 2008. All of the city population groups reported decreases in the number of arsons. Cities with 250,000 to 499,999 inhabitants had the largest decrease at 12.7 percent. Arson fell 11.7 percent in metropolitan counties but rose 1.2 percent in non-metropolitan counties. Law enforcement agencies in all four regions reported declines in the number of arsons, ranging from 9.2 percent in the Northeast to 7.5 percent in the South.

The complete Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report is available at

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The First Cop

The recent passing of Warner R. Quabeck reminds us of a simpler time.

At the time of his retirement in 1990, Mr. Quabeck was a Captain in the police department of nearby Hillsborough. But more significantly, he was Hillsborough's first full-time patrolman in 1965 when the police department was initially created.

As one might expect, he played a central role in the development of the department through the years. He is even credited with the design of the township seal, seen here on a uniform patch, as well as the police badge that is supplied today by the Badge Company of New Jersey.

Hillsborough is now part of the greater suburban sprawl that emanated outward from New York City and which has essentially met up with the suburban sprawl that emanated outward from Philadelphia. But in 1965, Hillsborough was a rural community that was just beginning to grow. Warner Quabeck helped guide that growth.

RIP, sir.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Special Kind of Person

Pictured is Officer Gregory Lordi of the Plainfield police department. He is one of a special kind of officer: He is the son of a cop, and he is the son of a cop killed on the job.

Gregory Lordi was a teenager in 1979 when his father, Anthony Lordi, Jr., was shot and killed in Hillside. The killing took place during a robbery attempt and was essentially an execution. At the time Anthony Lordi, Jr., was a 22-year veteran of the Hillside police department and was highly respected in the community and within the Hillside police.

We think that it takes a special kind of person to become a police officer after losing your police officer father under such circumstances. Gregory Lordi and his younger brother, Jeffrey, both became police officers.

And the killer from 30 years ago? Still in jail.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hi, Mom

Recently, a 25-year-old guy dressed in his mother’s pink blouse, her black coat and head scarf, pulled into the drive-thru lane of a bank in Somerset County. Using his mother’s driver’s license, he tried to make a withdrawal from her account.

The best part of the story is this: According to bank employees, the man tried to speak in a high-pitched voice.

The bank employees called the police. The police saw to it that the next time the guy was seen in public, he was no longer wearing his mother’s clothes – he was wearing handcuffs and prison garb.

He was charged with several offenses, including third-degree forgery and attempted theft by deception.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Small Ceremony

In the photo, Hackettstown Fire Chief Michael Gibbs is handing a citation plaque to firefighter John Tillou, one of three Hackettsown firefighters who risked their lives during a fire earlier this year.

Tillou, his cousin Fred Tillou, and Jamie Taylor were honored at a small ceremony during a Hackettstown Council meeting in September.

The three were among the respondents to a fire in Mansfield Township, a fire which claimed the lives of residents Carl and Margaret Salerno. The men rescued Anthony Salerno, the adult son of those killed, via a basement window. To gain access to the basement they had to remove their breathing apparatus, no minor step under the circumstances.

Mansfield volunteer firefighter Les Titus, who lives a few doors down from the home, also entered the home to help, and was honored subsequently by the St. Barnabas Burn Foundation.

These are examples of why we recoil when the word "hero" is used lightly. Without the selflessness of these men, this fire would likely have claimed a third victim.

But there is a disturbing twist to the story. It was later determined that the fire was intentionally set, and the deaths of Mr and Mrs Salerno were ruled homicides. Charged was Carmine Salerno, older son of the victims and brother of the man rescued. As of this writing he is in jail awaiting trial. The charges include two counts of felony murder, second-degree aggravated assault and second-degree aggravated arson.

It is alleged that Carmine Salerno set two fires in the home, both placed so that it would be impossible for his sleeping family members to escape the house without encountering one of the fires.

It is one thing when a fire caused by an electrical short or a faulty chimney puts firefighters at risk. But it is quite another when an arsonist does so. Making than small ceremony back in September all the more meaningful.

Monday, December 7, 2009

LoJack for People

We were reminded recently about Project Lifesaver transmitter bracelets, a cooperative program between various law enforcement agencies and Project Lifesaver International, a nonprofit that makes available wristband radios transmitters for individuals with dementia or other disorders that may cause them to go missing.

Our initial reaction when we first learned about the Project Lifesaver bracelets, "Oh, like LoJack, but for people." LoJack, of course, is the tracking device for the recovery of stolen automobiles. Well, we were not the only ones to note this similarity. LoJack Corporation itself has lent support to Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver works cooperatively with law enforcement and other agencies, and has won the endorsement of many, including the Sheriff’s Association of New Jersey. Project Lifesaver has worked with the New Jersey State Police to implement the tracking procedures, as well.

You can learn more about Project Lifesaver at