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FTPD Makes History With First Female Black Lieutenant

FTPD Lieutenant Jolanda Lacewell is the first female Black police lieutenant in township history.

A bit of township history was commemorated at the December 8 Township Council meeting when the FTPD’s first female Black lieutenant was among 11 command-level officers who received their ceremonial swearings-in.

Lt. Jolanda Lacewell, a 24-year veteran with the Franklin Township Police Department, and her 10 colleagues were ceremonially sworn in during the Council’s final virtual meeting of the year.

Lacewell shared an historical note with Lt. Lloyd Fredericks, a 15-year FTPD veteran, in that both are the first African-American FTPD lieutenants since 1991.

Also sworn in as an FTPD Lieutenant was Lt. Robert Ellis, a 14-year veteran with the Franklin force.

There were also eight officers sworn in as sergeants.

“So I say congratulations to Franklin, congratulations to our officers,” Public Safety Director Quovella Spruill said. “We have great energy in the police department right now, and I see this as a starting point for all of you.”

“The new era of the Franklin Township Police Department continues,” Spruill said in a press release. “All of these officers had to go through a challenging testing and interview process to attain this goal.”

“I am confident that this group of men and women will lead the Franklin Township Police Department to new heights in the future,” she said in the release.

Ceremonially sworn in as sergeants were Daniel Lyons, Vincent Wilson, ReBecca Lea, Stacey Grant, Deyo Swartz, Richard Livingston, James Raics, and Brandon Domotor.

“I welcome you to the command staff and supervision,” Spruill said during the meeting. “We have great things to accomplish and I’m looking forward to 2021, as all of you are.”

Lt. Lacewell, who holds an Associate’s Degree from Union County College, has served as a patrol officer, within the Neighborhood Police Teams, detective, and patrol sergeant. She has also served as a Detective Sergeant in the Professional Services Division and supervised the Professional Standards Bureau where she oversaw Internal Affairs, Accreditation, Training and Special Investigations.

She will continue to serve in the Professional Services Division.

Lt. Fredericks was a Detective with the East Orange Police Department before joining the FTPD. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers University and a Master’s Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Fredericks has served as a patrol officer, school resource officer at the Franklin Middle School and a patrol sergeant. He will be assigned to the Patrol Division as the Midnight Shift Commander.

Lt. Ellis was an officer with the Middlesex Borough Police Department before joining the FTPD. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Seton Hall University and Master’s Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

He has served as a patrol officer, detective and patrol sergeant. He will serve as the Dayshift Patrol Commander.

Sgt. Lyons, a 14-year FTPD veteran, was a patrol officer with the Clinton Police Department prior to joining the FTPD. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Rowan University and a Master’s Degree from Centenary College.

Lyons has served in the patrol division and is a firearms instructor for the Department, and will be assigned as a sergeant in the Patrol Division on Dayshift.

Det. Sgt. Wilson, a 13-year FTPD veteran, was an officer with the Rutgers-Newark Police Department before joining teh Franklin force. He has served as a patrol officer, within the Crime Suppression Unit, and as an Internal Affairs Detective within the Professional Standards Bureau.

He will serve as the supervisor of the Professional Standards Bureau.

Sgt. Lea, an 18-year FTPD veteran, has served in the patrol division and as an Internal Affairs Detective within the Professional Standards Bureau.

She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington and a Master’s Degree from Seton Hall University, and will be assigned as the supervisor of the Community Relations Bureau.

Sgt. Grant is a 19-year FTPD veteran. Prior to joining the FTPD, she was an officer with the Delaware River and Bay Authority Police Department.

During her tenure with the FTPD, she has served as a patrol officer and the school resource officer at the Franklin Middle School – Hamilton Street Campus. She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree from The College of New Jersey. Sgt. Grant will serve as a patrol sergeant on the Afternoon Shift.

Sgt. Swartz, an 8-year FTPD veteran, was an officer with the Princeton University Police Department prior to joining the FTPD. He is a veteran of the United States Army and has an Associate’s Degree from Valley Forge Military College.

During his tenure with the Franklin Police, Sgt. Swartz has served as a patrol officer and an officer within the Community Relations Bureau. He will be assigned to supervise a patrol squad on the Midnight Shift.

Sgt. Domotor is a 14-year FTPD veteran. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from West Virginia Wesleyan University.

During his tenure with the Franklin Township Police Department, he has served as a patrol officer and detective. Sgt. Domotor will be assigned as a patrol sergeant on the Midnight Shift.

Sgt. Richard Livingston served as an officer with the Monroe Police Department prior to joining the Franklin Township Police in 2007. He has served as a patrol officer, an officer within the Crime Suppression Unit, and was assigned to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotic Task Force. Additionally Sgt. Livingston is a member of the Somerset County Emergency Response Team as a SWAT Team Member.

Sgt. Livingston earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Seton Hall University. He will be assigned to the patrol division as a supervisor on the Afternoon Shift.

Sgt. Raics, a 14-year veteran of the Franklin Township Police Department, came to the department from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

Sgt. Raics earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Northcentral University. Throughout his career he served as a patrol officer and traffic safety officer, and he is a member of the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Emergency Response Team as a SWAT Team Member and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Collision Analysis Reconstruction Team. Sgt. Raics will serve as the sergeant of the Traffic Safety Bureau.

Township Council members heaped praise on the newly minted command officers.

Mayor Phil Kramer said that he did ride-alongs with both Lacewell and Domotor.

Kramer told a story of how Domotor broke off a chase of a speeder because, he said, it was not safe to continue.

“He demonstrated to me the integrity and state of awareness a police officer has to have,” Kramer said.

When he met Lacewell, Kramer said, “I looked at her and in one second, I knew, do not mess with this person. She showed me it’s all about attitude, all about the way you carry yourself.”

“Those are two fine people that we’ve promoted today, that I’m happy to have spent a little time with,” he said.

“It seems crazy that 2020 is our first African-American female lieutenant,” Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt (D-At Large) told Lacewell. “You’ve paved the way for every African-American female officer after you.:

“I’m very, very proud of every single officer,” she said. “I am happy to be a Councilwoman in Franklin Township, and happy to have a police department staffed with officers like yourselves.”

Pruitt said she’s spent a lot of time trying to “figure out how we can make the department more reflective of our community, and more contemporary. Looking out at all of you, I feel that we’re so much closer than we were a year ago. There’s been so much heartache and frustration, but there’s been so much good that’s come out of it.”

“It seems like there’s something special about tonight,” Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said. “I feel like we’ve really turned a big corner.”

Vassanella said the police officers “are dependent on us for our respect, support and appreciation …we are in dependent on them in more ways than most of us realize.”

“I feel a lot better after witnessing the people that we’re swearing in tonight knowing that they are out there for us and our township,” Vassanella said.

Councilman Ran Anbarasan (D-At Large) said the promotions demonstrate “our commitment to reflect the diversity of the town in the police department. I wish them the very best in continuing their service to the township.”

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) said that these recent promotions make him “prouder and prouder of our police department at the diversity level.”

The diversity of the FTPD, and the lack of Black and other minority officers rising through the officers’ corps, was the subject of a discrimination suit the township settled in May.

As part of the settlement, the township agreed to pay FTPD Lt. Kristen Durham $300,000 and keep her on administrative leave until she is eligible for retirement in mid-2021.

In her suit, Durham alleged a pattern of discrimination against her by former supervisors of the FTPD, including former Chief Lawrence Roberts and former Chief Richard Grammar.

Durham also claimed there was a pattern of racial discrimination in the FTPD, resulting in no African American officers rising above the grade of Sergeant while they were bypassed by White officers with less experience. She claimed that she was retaliated against when she complained about the alleged discrimination.

The township admitted to none of the Durham’s allegations in the settlement.

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