As a community, there is no greater investment in our collective future to be made than to provide the children of our county with a safe and healthy environment in which to grow. We in Union County law enforcement recognize that we can serve as a critical partner in that collective effort. As such, acting Prosecutor Ruotolo and the UCPO Leadership Team are implementing the following new youth-focused initiatives:
- Union County Cares: First implemented in West Virginia in 2013, and then piloted in Newark New Jersey in 2016 by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Cares program is a notification procedure by which law enforcement officers advise appropriate school personnel when they encounter children who have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). Based on a simple “handle with care” notice received from local police, school staff can take appropriate action to provide the impacted student with the care required. While officers will not provide any information or details about the child’s exposure to ACE, events that trigger the handle with care notice include, but are not limited to the following: the execution of a search warrant in the child’s home, the arrest of a parent, the suicide or overdose of a family matter, an incident of domestic violence, the abuse of the child or a sibling, forced displacement from the home, and bullying.
- Kids Spreading Kindness: Shortly after acting Prosecutor Ruotolo took office, the Office of the Attorney General issued its Bias Incident Report for 2017-2018. In 2018, the number of bias incidents in New Jersey rose to the highest level since 2011, with a total of 569 reported statewide. What was most troubling about the report was that of the 227 known offenders behind those 569 incidents, 105 (or 46.3%) of the offenders were minors. Union County will not be a home for hate, and Union County’s children will grow up to be kind leaders. Union County law enforcement wants to play its part in helping to make both statements realities.
To address the trend of increased bias incidents among our youth, as well as growing safety vulnerabilities for children online, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office developed a training program geared towards educating Union County’s kids to protect themselves and each other on the internet, while simultaneously providing them with practical tools to identify and reject bias. The presentation is taught by UCPO detectives and assistant prosecutors in county schools (grades 4-12) and addresses: traditional and cyberbullying; internet stranger danger; bias crimes, and other issues impacting our youth. Woven throughout the presentation is an empowering message about spreading kindness and being a positive role-model to peers.
- Acting Prosecutor Ruotolo invites all Union County 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, to enter the Kids Spreading Kindness Logo Design Contest, and submit their artistic submission by the April 17, 2020 deadline.
- Behavioral Threat Assessment & Management: The Prosecutor’s Office will be hosting a training developed and conducted by Sigma Threat Management Associates, and sponsored by the Urban Areas Security Initiative, that brings together educators, law enforcement, and youth services providers, to work as a team in identifying, assessing, and managing potentially threatening behavior, to prevent violence in our schools. We will be hosting several day-long trainings this spring for community-based teams from around Union County.
- Reunification Procedure Training & UCPO Toolkit: An essential component of school crisis response is the reunification of students with their primary caregivers. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office will be initiating county-wide training for school officials on the process of reunification following a critical event. This training will be established for implementation in the 2020-2021 school year. The predetermined and practiced reunification process will help to ensure that reunification will not add to the emotional stress students and parents may experience during the event.
- Expansion of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Child Advocacy Center: Beginning this spring all children in Union County who become victims of sexual abuse will have their cases handled by the Child Advocacy Center where they will have access to wrap-around services and law enforcement personnel specifically trained to work with children who have survived sexual trauma.