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U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Representative Donald Payne Jr. came to East Orange on Monday, Sept. 28, to present a $1.5 Million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Federal Hiring Program Grant to Mayor Lester Taylor, the City Council, the Police Department and public safety stakeholders.

East Orange Board of Education President Bergson Leneus, Vice President Mustafa Brent and board member Jenabu Williams were also at the press conference in City Hall Plaza, due to the “safe corridors” public education aspect of the grant.

The $1.5 million COPS Hiring Program grant will be used to hire 12 additional school resource officers for the East Orange public schools.

“We probably have the two most dangerous areas in the county,” Payne said on Monday, September 28. “We are a Tier 1 target for terrorists. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Newark are all Tier 1 targets. We have to be vigilant in the manner that we make sure our counties are safe.”

Payne said that includes making sure public schools in East Orange and elsewhere have the kind of protection for students that they need. He said that’s why the city’s grant would be used to hire more school resource officers (SROs).

Taylor said “budgetary constraints” in the past decade had reduced the number of SROs in East Orange from 34 to 4, serving a population of more than 10,000 students in 22 public schools. With the new grant, the officers will be stationed in various zones throughout the city, with an emphasis on the high schools and middle schools.

“These SROs will be doing much more than policing our schools,” said Taylor on Monday, Sept. 28. “They will also serve as mentors and help to rebuild a foundation of trust and cooperation among our students.”

Leneus said that trust and cooperation are very important to ensure the city’s schools live up to Taylor’s vision of “urban excellence.” He also said the $1.5 million COPS Hiring Program grant would be used to get the SROs out onto the city streets to create “safe corridors” so that all public school students in East Orange can get to and from school in safety.

“As a board, we are dedicated to setting a new standard of excellence,” Leneus said Monday, Sept. 28. “Ongoing dialogue that results in action will be instrumental in our efforts.”

East Orange Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gloria Scott said, “this grant will greatly assist the district in ensuring the safety of our children.”

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