Metuchen to review police use of force policies

June 23, 2020: Metuchen is forming a commission to study the police department’s use of force policies as part of a broader, national push to push back against law enforcement violence and racism.

Mayor Jonathan Busch announced the formation of the commission at the board meeting Monday. The commission will be led by Rev. Ronald Owens, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.

“We’re grateful that here in Metuchen our police department is one of the best in the state with respect to its record, the statistics show it as well, and certainly when you compare it locally to other departments, there’s not even a comparison,” Busch said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t still look at ourselves and take a hard look at what we do.”


Torrance Police Department motorcycle officers roll out.

As part of the effort, Busch signed the “Mayor’s Pledge” from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of former President Barack Obama’s Foundation. The pledge commits signers to review use of force policies, engage the community by including a range of perspectives as part of the review, make the findings public while seeking feedback and ultimately, reform use of force policies.

Other details of the commission were not available. Busch said other members of the commission, as well as its specific focus, will be disclosed over the next few weeks.

Metuchen is forming the commission as the nation takes a hard look at its law enforcement and the disproportionate violence visited by police on the black community.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck sparked nationwide protests. Floyd and other deaths such as Breonna Taylor has spurred hard questions about how much force is appropriate, especially when it comes to unarmed people.

Owens and Metuchen police Chief David Irizarry did not return requests for comment Tuesday.


Metuchen police investigate string of break-ins

Nov. 5, 2015: A woman at a residence on Robins Place was on the second floor when she heard three loud bangs downstairs. She went down to investigate and discovered the back door busted open, but no one around.

This happened on Oct. 26 around 9:20 a.m., the last of a string of burglaries or attempted break-ins the Metuchen Police Department is investigating.

There have been five incidents: three actual break-ins and two attempts, according to Metuchen Police Chief David Irizarry. No residents have been confronted in any of the incidents. The person or people committing the acts seem to be checking to see if anyone is home before attempting to access the residences, Irizarry said.

“Someone breaking into a home during the day, 99.9 percent of the time is not looking for a confrontation,” Irizarry said. “Usually they’ll knock a few times, wait for someone to come and if no one comes, they usually bang the door.”

The incidents are likely connected, Irizarry said. “Normally you don’t have multiple burglars working in your town at one time. If you have a week or two weeks with multiple burglaries or attempts, most times it’s the same person or group of people,” he said.

Here are the incidents:

  • the first occurred on Oct. 18 at a residence on Main Street in the area of St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. The residence, in which no one was home at the time, was accessed through an unlocked rear door. It’s not clear what time the incident occurred since no one was home. Irizarry did not have updated information on what was taken from the residence other than a video game console and video games.
  • three incidents occurred on Oct. 23: the first happened around 11:23 a.m. at a residence on Spring Street. An alarm scared away the person or people trying to access the residence; the second occurred around 1:55 p.m. on Whitman Avenue, where no one was home at the time. A rear sliding glass door was pried open and jewelry was taken; the third incident occurred at 4:15 p.m. at a residence on Rector Street, where a rear sliding door was forced open. No one was home at the time. A camera was taken.
  • The final incident, referenced above, occurred on Oct. 26 at the Robins Place residence, where police believe the perpetrator was scared away once he or she discovered the residence was occupied.

Irizarry declined to discuss any leads police are following because the investigation is ongoing. He said most towns will have the occasional burglary, but it’s not an “issue” in Metuchen. “We had a few this year and also solved a great deal of them,” he said.

He asked that residents call police if they see something, or someone, that looks out of the ordinary. Police can be reached at the main number of 732-632-8500 or by dialing 9-1-1.