New Jersey’s largest police union has endorsed Senator Joe Cryan in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election but some observers wonder if the group will do more harm than good to the anti-abortion Pennsylvania politician’s chances after the same organization supported Republican President Donald Trump last year.
The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association announced that it endorsed Cryan for another term in the Legislature on the same day as Derek Chauvin’s murder trial began.
Cryan is facing a challenge from Assemblyman Jamel Holley, who has held one of the district’s two Assembly seats since 2016, said that if elected to the Senate seat for the 20th District, he will continue championing African American causes as he has done since he became the youngest councilman elected in Union County in his hometown of Roselle at the age of 24.
The state’s largest police union exclusively endorsed Republican candidates last year, including President Donald Trump and Republican challengers in hotly contested congressional seats.
Cryan has earned PBA support by opposing legislation to make officers accountable for police brutality and other misconduct. He has done nothing to limit ‘qualified immunity’ or make police accountable when they kill unarmed citizens like George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor or Eric Garner.
He was the only Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee who refused to support legislation allowing a municipality to enact a police and firefighter residency ordinance, even after a number of prominent Black leaders said the first responders should reside in communities they are supposed to serve.
After Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and state Senator Shirley Turner both offered testimony supporting the measure, arguing that police should not be detached from the public trust an observer said, “Cryan indicated he is more concerned about maintaining his political support among police unions than serving his constituency.”
Many progressive activists all over America want officers to be required to live in the cities they patrol, arguing it will make officers more culturally competent, diversify police forces and improve community relations.
“It’s a plus if we have officers who live in the city, they grew up in the city, they have a stake in the city because it’s home,” said Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who is supporting a bill to restore the city’s police residency requirement. “It goes a long way to building community trust.”
Creating a community connection is advocated by many of the same activists who say lawmakers should focus on measures such as ending the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds, which have led to recent deaths of African Americans.
Powerful police unions stand in the way of structural reform, experts say and Cryan is emblematic of the malign influence some of those organizations have over government.
Cryan is endorsed by New Jersey’s largest police union, the same organization that supported former President Donald Trump last year. The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, which represents about 33,000 people, opposed policing reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Holley says a Senate seat would make him Union County’s first African American state senator, and allow him to more effectively represent the concerns of the Black community.
“The representation that we’ve received in the senate is zero, and it gives myself and the members of my community a seat at the table,” he said.
In a county that hasn’t elected a Republican to the state Senate for more than 50 years, a win in the Democratic primary would virtually assure the victor a seat in the Senate, and so Holley is ramping up his attacks on Cryan, accusing him of failing to represent the county’s concerns, and of refusing to debate Holley in public.
“I have asked him to debate me numerous times, and he won’t debate me,” Holley said in an interview. “This is one of two or three hotly contested primaries, and he doesn’t feel that the voters should hear us on all issues.”
Cryan has failed to represent his constituents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he continued collecting two government paychecks adding up to more than $257,500 annually plus he has made sure that ten of his family members are also on the public payroll.
As Sheriff and in the decade before moving into the top position from a six-figure job as top deputy, Cryan failed to make sure dozens of murder cases were solved involving young Black men in Union County.
“Black lives do not matter to Joe Cryan,” said a longtime Union County resident who projected that Holley would lose because most Black residents of Elizabeth and Hillside are not paying attention to the election. “Cryan will win Union and Holley will carry Roselle Black folks in Elizabeth and Hillside sleep through the alarm and miss another urgent call to action. Latinos and Black folks in Elizabeth have failed to assert their right to vote, which is why they get treated like crap by such bigots as Tom Dunn, Joe Cryan and others.”
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