UCPO hosting “Outreach Week” with 21-21 community meetings on bias crimes, immigrant trust

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has designated the last week in February as its first-ever “Outreach Week,” during which it will partner with Union County College and a host of speakers from a variety of organizations in holding public meetings on a pair of vitally important topics, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan and Union County College President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin jointly announced Friday.

The meetings, held as part of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s 21-County, 21st-Century Community Policing Project, will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26 in Room N-4 of the Nomahegan Building on Union County College’s main Cranford campus and at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 28 in Room K-517 of the Kellogg Building on Union County College’s Elizabeth campus, with the meeting topics to include bias crime investigations and immigrant trust, respectively.

“Bias crimes and immigration issues aren’t just hot topics in the news of late; it is crucially important that they be proactively addressed by law enforcement at every level,” Prosecutor Monahan said. “We urge and welcome any and all members of the public and representatives of groups devoted to safeguarding the rights of all protected classes of citizens who are interested in these topics to please attend, and share what they learn with their constituents.”

“Union County College is proud to partner with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office on this first-ever ‘Outreach Week,’” Dr. McMenamin added. “We are pleased to help promote stronger police-community relations in Union County through this dialog about topics ranging from bias crimes to immigration.”

For the first meeting, opening remarks by Prosecutor Monahan and representatives from Union County College and the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council, which assisted with planning, will be followed by a wide-ranging panel discussion moderated by Union County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Spagnoli, Supervisor of the Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit. Serving as panelists will be New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Training & Outreach Liaison David S. Leonardis and Rachel Wainer Apter, the newly appointed Director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Other panelists will include Anti-Defamation League Associate Regional Director Alex Rosemberg, Garden State Equality Policy Director Aaron Potenza, Prosecutor’s Office Bias Crimes Sgt. Rudolfo Correia, and a representative from the Plainfield chapter of the NAACP.

There are nine protected classifications of citizens under New Jersey state law, and they include race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and national origin. Under New Jersey’s bias intimidation statute, a confirmed unlawful act committed against a person or property (public or private) on the basis of any one of these classifications is a separate crime, punishable by one greater degree than that of the most serious underlying crime.

For the second meeting, opening remarks will be followed by presentations by Prosecutor’s Office Investigations Supervisor John Esmerado, who will outline the Attorney General’s newly unveiled Immigrant Trust Directive, as well as Nicole Polley Miller, Esq., Legal Services Director of the American Friends Service Committee, who will offer a detailed overview of immigrants’ rights.

The aforementioned Directive can be reviewed in its entirety online here:

Breakout roundtable discussions and a question-and-answer period will follow both presentations. These events are free to attend, and registration is not required. Parking for the Cranford meeting will be available on Lots 1, 2, 4, 5a, and 5b, each accessible on the main campus accessible via Springfield Avenue; parking for the Elizabeth meeting will be available in the J. Christian Bollwage Garage at the intersection of Elizabethtown Plaza and West Jersey Street.

The Attorney General’s 21-County, 21st-Century Community Policing Project was unveiled in April 2018 to promote stronger police-community relations throughout New Jersey by bringing law enforcement and community stakeholders together in every county, at a minimum four times each year, for town hall meetings, roundtable discussions, and other outreach events “addressing vital issues of mutual concern.” There is a dedicated web page,, that serves as a clearinghouse for information about the Project.

“Every day, law enforcement officers across New Jersey work closely with the members of the public to keep our streets safe,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said at the time. “But that does not mean we cannot do better, and strengthening police-community relations in New Jersey is one of my top priorities. Despite the best efforts of many people, we know that divides exist in some instances between law enforcement and the communities they serve. In certain cases, these divides have been created by misunderstandings rooted in past events, and in other cases, they are based on misperceptions about law enforcement. The goal of our ‘21/21 Project’ is to bridge those divides by bringing law enforcement together with community leaders and stakeholders, encouraging dialogue on critical issues, and building relationships of trust that will continue after these meetings are adjourned.”

For more information about Union County’s 21/21 meetings, please contact Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey at 908-527-4621 or