LITTLE EGG HARBOR — The Little Egg Harbor police chief has publicly thanked the community for it's "assistance and support" in the wake of a "challenging time" for law enforcement officers in the township as well as the nation.

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Police Chief Richard Buzby Jr. posted an open letter to the township on the department's website Monday. The letter comes in the wake of two fatal police-involved shootings in the town within the past year.

"The past several months have been a challenging time for our profession and our country," Buzby wrote. "This uncertainty and unrest has led some people to question the motives and actions of all law enforcement and that has made it difficult for policemen in many places to do the best job that they can for the residents they serve.

"In the case of this community, however, this has been quite different and I am writing to let you know just how much we value the relationships we have created together and the excellent law enforcement activities you have enabled by your assistance and support."

Buzby's letter pointed to the recent nationwide incidents of violence among police and the public, but it also alludes to recent challenges in Little Egg Harbor, including two fatal shootings that have taken place in the Ocean County municipality since November 2015.

On July 16, retired NYPD officer Patrick Fennell, 57, was shot by the Ocean County Regional SWAT team in a wooded area around his home on Sycamore Drive after taking a handgun. The man's wife reported that he was acting "in a strange manner" and after leaving the house with a handgun, police contained him to a wooded area. At approximately 10:30 p.m., officers confronted Fennell and a member of the SWAT team fired multiple rounds, fatally striking the retired cop, authorities said.

In November of 2015, Little Egg Harbor police shot and killed an armed, suicidal  47-year-old man who allegedly refused to drop a knife, according to NJ Advance Media. Buzby told the website that the officers involved in that incident were cleared of any wrongdoing.

In his letter, the police chief thanked members of the community for their recent encouragement in the form of cards, flowers, letters, food and "kind words."

"We wanted you to know just how much this has meant to us and how much it has helped us to continue to perform for you in these dark and trying times," Buzby's letter states.

The police chief's full letter to the community is below:

(Credit: Little Egg Harbor Township Police)

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