Editor's note: The following letter was originally addressed to Mayor David Robinson and the Cranford Township Committee.
Dear Mayor Robinson and Elected Officials:
In light of today's elections and the changes forthcoming in our township, it is finally time for my voice to be heard. I planned to address you personally at the last town meeting which, obviously, did not occur.
Following today's election, we all look forward to a full-time police chief and full-time administrator as well as a CFO. We look forward to a better and safer tomorrow. We are counting on each of you to always be there for us. I would like to remind each of you of my experience in town and ask that you seriously consider these facts with regard to the appointment of a new Cranford police chief. I also urge you to move away from Eric Mason as administrator.
Here's why: I believe Cranford's Police Chief's role is to ensure that we, the citizens of Cranford are served and protected. This did not happen for us. My big sister, MaryEllen was murdered in town. For six years I've wanted to address particular issues around this tragedy, the time is now.
Earlier this year, I wrote to Chief Mason, no response whatsoever. As time goes on, you will start to hear other horrific facts that we endured at the county level. Every person I've written to in government has responded, that is, except for our Police Chief Eric Mason. Jeez, a form letter would have meant something. His lack of a reply speaks volumes.
We have lived in town for close to 50 years, now I know we are not respected and, we are truly not safe. Please note, this is not about a lawsuit or blame. This is about awareness, need for changes and establishing protocol to SERVE and PROTECT us all. For the time being, the killer is in prison. What you need to know if that we, and especially our children, are not safe or protected here in town.
1. CFD cannot help a child who walks in and asks for help from someone they are afraid of. Even if the person put their hands on the kid as in our case. I witnessed it, no one ever called to follow up, ask questions, etc. Said child was told they must go, on their own, to Elizabeth County Courthouse to request protection, as in a Restraining Order. A document was written by CPD so there's a record on this report. Sadly, the fact is, unless a person is personally involved/sexually with the person they fear, no restraining order would be issued. There is also no CPD follow-up. So, I ask you, what are their rights?
In our case, child went to both places, gave deposition, which by the way, mysteriously disappeared from the courthouse. I know this for fact, as our departed Judge Bell handled this for us. After we paid the fee we were told the report is missing. No repercussions, swept under the carpet. Why does CPD send a kid to Union County Courthouse when we all now know they cannot help them either? We need protocol, a call to action. Where does a kid go today for help? What change has occurred to help the next child?
2. CPD does not chase criminals in vehicles. Again, this is a fact. In our case, at approx 4 a.m. the killer was seen driving erratically through town in my sister's vehicle. Upon being pulled over, the killer took off. What this tells me is, vehicles pulled over in Cranford, at any time, should just drive away. As I understand it, Chief Mason authorized CPO to step down that night. I'm told, "for the safety of others CPD does not chase." What I want to know is why? It was the middle of the night? Why no roadblocks? Why no radio alert to other towns? Why no call to NJ State Police?
We need protocol, a call to action immediately on this point.
PTSD, every time I hear or see a CP car flying down the street in the light of day, it makes my skin crawl. What's the difference between high speed driving and, a chase? For this reason, I will forever wonder, if my sister could have been saved. CPD ran the plates of the fleeing vehicle but, no follow-up. They never went to the house of the car owned by a woman, driven by a man at an address where help was requested only a few days before. Shameful. I cannot let this happen again.
I was told by a current CPD lieutenant: "there's no way to cross reference these things." Same guy told me, "they don't chase to protect the police and other people, they would have too many lawsuits." Same guy told me "he will never answer your letter" and "we have a ridiculous amount of domestic violence calls every day." We do? Although I sincerely appreciate his honesty, I almost fell over. What are we doing to help serve and protect these people and everyone else? As I see it, nothing. An immediate call to action is needed here.
3. I see no mention of specific domestic violence matters in your annual reports. If such a problem exists, as our lieutenant told me, it should be an active and ongoing community issue. As I see it, it is not. I would personally give my time to such a program. I could have a volunteer group ready in a week. Cranford's website lists a national hot-line number. This is not enough. I urge you and Ms. (Adubato), safety commissioner, to address this now. I've spoken with several CHS attendees and graduates and I understand there are no teachings or awareness about DV. This needs to change, now!
4. During our ordeal I mostly remember working with Detective John Swandrak. Several other officers were often present but he was our go to guy. John was kind and courteous. I read in our annual report the chief and several CPD officers received merit citations for arresting this killer. Why? They only found the killer when and where they did because we/the family, told CPD to go there. What's a citation? Any financial remuneration?
This is wrong on so many levels. The chief let a killer go on his watch, yet he is praised, merited and allowed to continue. Yes, we could have sued, we chose not to. We have been through enough. Living through this ordeal is a nightmare, nothing like you see on CSI. We don't have the wherewithal to set foot in a court. Seeing changes made will not only help and potentially save others; it will also aid in our continued healing. That's what I'm hoping to achieve here, through awareness and programs we can help those in need of protection from dangerous people in their lives.
5. Where are the respect and courtesies from our township? I personally wrote to the chief, no reply. No one in the CPD, other than our personal relationships, showed us such. In fact, a now retired Cranford Firefighter sat in his car for two days in front our family home. This was on his own time. Where were the Cranford police? I guess they don't do that? Follow-up and protocol needed here as well.
I have so much more to say, so many facts of misery to disclose and, in time, I will. In the meantime, it is abundantly clear, the CPD is not set up to handle the scope of tragedy we've endured, that is murder. It's not that they aren't trained, it's that, for the most part, they don't live it. All the more reason why we need to zero in on what happened that night, why decisions were made and, most importantly, we need ensure it doesn't happen again or, is handled better.
Please hear my voice, please respond with a call to action. Please, do not let another person or family suffer this fate. Please, do not let another killer get away. Please, make sure everyone is accountable. Please, be there to SERVE and SUPPORT us, and our children, always. I look forward to your reply and anticipated actions.