This year, Stack instituted the "Director's Award" (Stack, as mayor, is also the Director of Public Safety in Union City) which is a direct mayoral recognition of police officers.
According to Policeman's Benevolent Association President and Union City Police Officer Dominic DePinto, the awards are "pretty important to the morale of the department. To be recognized by your peers and superiors is very important. It's basically as slap on the back saying, 'Hey, you did a great job'."
"Unfortunately," continued DePinto, "whenever we come into direct contact with the public, it's usually in really stressful situations. So the people don't get to tell us that we did a good job. It's usually after the fact. That's why these awards are so important. It makes the men feel really good."
Stack explained, "It's a way to recognize the cops. We have here in Union City a community that is involved in the safety of the city."
According to Union City Captain Joe Blaettler, the awards' purpose is simple. "This is recognition of what the cops do on a day-to-day basis," he said.
While many members of the public may view the police simply as enforcers of the laws, the nature of policework indicates that literally anything can happen in a split second.
Said Union City Commissioner Christopher Irizarry in a pre-ceremony interview, "We're honoring our heroes, and also, we should honor them every day. A lot of people complain to the cops and about them, also but you should really take the time to thank them."
A total of five "Director's Awards" were given out to officers that investigated the string of arson fires earlier in the year. The officers are Detective Jose Diaz, Detective Ray McCool, Sgt. Mark Julve, Lt. Rick Molinari and Captain Brian Barrett.
There were also 40 "Unit Citation" awards given out. One of these citations was given to Police Officer Robert Gaeta, who according to Patrol Commander Captain Joe Blaettler, was the first officer to respond to a call at a Union City mosque for what the police call an "EDP (emotionally disturbed person)" Said Blaettler, "The individual was acting irrationally, breaking windows."
But rather than use force, Officer Gaeta was able to talk calmly to the man, going out of his way to control the situation with kindness and patience.
Blaettler said, "[Gaeta] showed up and almost immediately developed some type of relationship with the individual, sat down next to him and calmed him down. Other officers were then able to move in and with minimal force, restrain the individual."
According to Gaeta, "When I got to the scene, people were waving me inside frantically. When I got inside, I saw there were shelves [where shoes are kept] completely knocked down. I went upstairs and saw a male with no shirt on, clutching a Koran and walking around in circles muttering in Arabic. He was covered in blood because he put his hand through almost every window in the place. I called for backup. Everyone that was available showed up. It looked like the whole Union City Police Department was there."
Continued Gaeta, "I started talking to him and we developed a relationship pretty quickly. He wanted me to take my gun out of the holster and give it to another officer, which I did, and kneeled down next to him [in a Muslim prayer position] and we talked for about half an hour. I gave him my word that he wouldn't be arrested and we finally took him to Jersey City Medical Center."
Gaeta also stated that the head of the mosque sent a letter to the Chief of Police, Norman Bareis, commending Gaeta for his professionalism.