‘In the early morning hours of January 7, 2007, 23-year-old rookie Paterson Police Officer Tyron D. Franklin was placing an order at a fast food eatery in Paterson. The rookie officer was in plain clothes and off duty. He had no idea a gang member was about to rob the establishment. What transpired over the next several seconds claimed Officer Franklin’s life but inspired the creation of NJ COP SHOT. Officer Franklin fought with the attacker and was shot several times. The attacker fired two more shots after witnesses identified Officer Franklin as a police officer. The suspect fled into the darkness of the night.’
The outrage in the law enforcement community was overwhelming. New Jersey State PBA President Anthony Wieners immediately reached out to the department and offered any assistance. It soon became clear that the suspect would not be caught in the first few hours. Paterson PBA and President Wieners knew there was a need for a reward for information but there was no established fund to support hunting cop killers in the State. The Paterson PBA during their darkest hour had to go out and solicit money for a reward. President Wieners said, “I could not imagine with all the resources in this State that there was not a fund ready to post a reward. I promised from that moment on we would never be unprepared to track down anyone who shot an officer in New Jersey”.
President Wieners created a sub committee to research how to best implement a cop shot reward program in New Jersey. The committee made up of Mark Kovar, Pat Coligan and Jim Ryan researched several cop shot programs around the nation. In the end it was the New York City program that offered the most guidance. The problem in New Jersey is that unlike New York City, we have over 500 towns with 21 different county prosecutor’s office. President Wieners gave the order that no matter how many levels of bureaucracy had to be gone through the program was to be created. In March of 2008 the New Jersey State PBA established the NJ COP SHOT program.
President Wieners said in establishing the program, “Never again should a person who pulls the trigger on an officer in New Jersey get a moments rest”. The program gives any local police department or prosecutor’s office $20,000 in reward money to give out for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who shoots a police officer. The reward is posted regardless of union affiliation, job title, or agency. The program does not care if you are a municipal officer, county investigator, correction officer, trooper, or any other law enforcement job title.
In creating the reward fund President Wieners directed Jim Ryan to be the program coordinator. “Our goal is to coordinate with the local police agency and prosecutor’s office quickly and get the money out there. We want the suspect to know we are coming and there is no alternative but to surrender,” said Ryan. He pointed to Lakewood Officer Chris Matlosz slaying this year as a text book example of how the fund can work. “We offered the reward within an hour of the shooting and it just kept growing with other locals adding to it. We know the suspect fled the area and was well aware of the growing bounty on his head. The pressure from the growing reward left him unsure what friend or family was going to call in to collect the money”.
The program has grown over time but is not limited to crimes in New Jersey. In May of 2008 Bergenfield Police Officer John Casper was on vacation in the Bahamas when he attempted to stop a robbery and was shot. The NJ COP SHOT program coordinated with local media in the Bahamas and within hours an arrest was made. The last year and a half have seen an increase in reward cases. Including;
January 30, 2010 Shooting – Fairfield Officer Gerald Veneziano
May 10, 2010 Shooting – Wayne Officer Wodell
January 14, 2011 Killing – Lakewood Officer Chris Matlosz
May 19, 2011 Shooting – Newark, Retired Floram Park officer
May 27, 2011 Killing – Newark Officer William Johnson
June 11, 2011 Shooting – Salem City officer
The big question by some agencies is how does the program works. If your agency has an incident were an officer is shot you can contact the State office at (732) 636-8860, or have your delegate reach out for the President or Executive Vice President. They will work to confirm what agency is investigating, what the facts are and if they are wiling to take a reward offer. President Wieners will give the final authorization to issue the reward. We then supply the prosecutor’s office and local police department with the guarantee that should a tipster provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction we will give out the reward.
“We hope and pray never have to issue a reward, but we know the reality,” said Wieners.