Lower Township Police Chief Responds to Sunset Beach Incident
In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Chief of Police for Lower Township responded to the situation of the Sunset Beach Gift Shop being closed over the weekend for violation of the Governor's COVID-19 executive orders.
The chief stated that the owners of the business insulted his officer, "simply trying to honor his oath to enforce the law."
The chief says his department originally responded to, "multiple anonymous tips received that both the business and miniature golf course" were violating the governor's orders.
According to the news release, the officer, on Saturday, arrived at the gift shop and spoke with the owner who said he believed his business could be open, because he sold essential products. After a walk-through of the store, the officer advised the owner that they were in violation of the governor's executive order and would have to close the store and the miniature golf course. The officer informed the owner that the business could stay open for curbside service.
The following is directly from the news release from the Chief of Police:
The Officer, in a sympathetic manner, relayed this information to the owner, and the Officer politely advised the customers that the store would have to close and that they would have to leave the premises after completing their purchases. The customers on the golf course were advised that the golf course was closing, but they could finish their games.
While the Officer was carrying out his duty, the owner and his adult son became very agitated and responded negatively to the officer including insulting him in public, which lead to a brief exchange of words outside of the business. This in turn caused the Officer to tell his son that if he did not calm down and stop interfering with his ability to communicate with his Department that he would be arrested for disorderly conduct. No summons was issued. It was clear that the owners of the business were blaming their frustration with being unable to remain fully open on the Officer and the situation became very contentious.
During this entire incident, the Officer continued to explain to the owner and his son that this was not a decision made by him, he was simply enforcing the Executive Order and he understood their frustration.
The Chief says, after review of the officer's body camera, it was evident that the officer did everything he could to "de-escalate the situation, while carrying out his sword duties."
The news release concludes with the following:
We all realize that these are very trying and difficult times for everyone. This was a very unfortunate situation that nobody wanted to be in, but as Police Officers, we have a sworn duty to uphold the laws given to us. As the Chief of Police, it can sometimes be difficult to manage the Governor’s Executive Orders and still maintain a positive relationship with our community and local businesses.
These are very trying times for everyone in this country, especially for law-enforcement who are challenged in maintaining a very delicate balance between enforcing the State’s laws, doing their job to protect the communities they serve, and going home safe every day to their families. This job is all about the relationships we build with the community, and we want nothing more than our communities and businesses to open up so that everyone can get back to work and enjoy the normal pleasures in life. We also cannot forget that we are facing an unprecedented time with this virus and we must remain safe and smart on how we accomplish this so that none of us contract this virus and affect our friends and families.
We understand that the business owner simply wants to provide for his family, workers and the community he lives in; but that does not justify insulting a Police Officer simply trying to honor his oath to enforce the law.