In a tense recent Englewood City Council meeting, voices were raised in demand of police reform, a federal investigation into the police department, and better resources for handling mental health crises. The meeting touched on numerous issues, but the most striking exchanges were centered on the city’s law enforcement and public health responses.
Notably, Scott Jenkins, a representative of the North Jersey Black Caucus for Social Justice, made a fervent plea for a federal investigation into the Englewood Police Department. This call came in response to a series of grave incidents and allegations, including the wrongful death of a young man. Jenkins implored the council, “You cannot be afraid to find out the truth…there’s nothing wrong with asking for an investigation unless there’s fear or you know there is something wrong within the department.” His passionate plea was capped by the assertion, “One way or the other, this has to be resolved and you need to strongly consider bringing in a federal agency to look at the entire operation and what has happened here over the last 10 years.”
Another powerful voice belonged to Leroy Campbell, a resident who expressed serious concerns about Officer Brian Havlicek’s alleged misconduct. Campbell passionately demanded police accountability in Englewood, warning, “We’re going to wait for somebody to get killed again before we do something?” He insisted that dealing with problematic officers like Havlicek could prevent more serious incidents in the future, adding, “We’re going to have another fatal tragedy here where somebody’s going to die.”
Adding to the tension, Councilman Charles Cobb sounded a note of alarm over the city’s response to mental health crises. They critiqued the militarized police response to a recent incident involving a young man in distress, questioning, “Why is it that we have to do that when a young man is crying out for help?” The council member advocated for mental health professionals to be deployed in such situations to protect both residents and officers, underscoring, “Mental health doesn’t have color, doesn’t have religion. It affects everybody.”
To address these crises, various council members supported the idea of employing a city social worker, emphasizing the need to improve the local police department’s culture and response times. As one council member asserted, “No resident should ever fear calling 9-1-1.”
Separately, however, a discussion about liquor licenses further illustrated questionable conduct related to race and equity. The board tabled issue of granting an alcohol license for 37 Bennett Road, a location associated with the historically Black Masonic organization, the Prince Hall Masons, while giving it to other locations around the city. This sparked an open challenge by Jenkins.
As the charged Englewood City Council meeting drew to a close, it underscored the urgent need for action and reform in areas of law enforcement, public health responses, and even local licensing practices.