‘We want to make it better’: How Perth Amboy is looking to improve its community policing

PERTH AMBOY – Samantha Castro called for social change and organized a protest of 1,000 people marching in the city after George Floyd’s death last year.

And although she said she has friends “victimized by police” but hasn’t seen that type of violence in the city, Castro said minority communities feel, to a certain extent, oppressed by cops and the justice system.

Last year’s march lent a voice to the level of frustration felt in the community here and called for action through the creation of a citizens campaign ordinance and advisory council.

Castro saw her call to action realized Wednesday in a ceremony at City Hall Circle where Mayor Helmin Caba issued an executive order enhancing public safety with de-escalation policies and signed an ordinance creating a community advisory board, Perth Amboy Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board. 

The executive order requires de-escalation performance in accordance with training provided to Perth Amboy police officers, and it will be an explicit factor considered in officers’ promotions. This reinforces the  police department’s commitment to developing officers who are “guardians” rather than “warriors” of public safety and the community, according to city officials.

The advisory board is designed to build mutual respect between the police and the community by ensuring de-escalation training and other de-escalation policies are brought to the attention of the city’s leadership. The board was proposed by the Perth Amboy Civic Trust and developed in consultation with The Citizens Campaign, as well as with the input of Perth Amboy police officers, the Frontline Youth and the City Council.