By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Councilman Michael Ballard spoke with anguish Wednesday night about the police killing of a Minnesota man earlier this week.
Near the end of the council’s semimonthly meeting carried via Zoom, Ballard spoke about his fears as an African-American in light of the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center Sunday.
The incident occurred just 10 miles from where former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.
“It breaks my heart that in this country we have to go through this process over and over again,” Ballard said. “And it never seems to get better. People who look like me throughout the country – many of us fear being stopped by the police. We’ve gotten to the point where we fear the people we ask to protect us. And it shouldn’t be that way.”
Ballard drew a contrast to the January 6 insurrection in the nation’s capital, where he said rioters “mercilessly attacked” police “with barely a shot being fired.” He noted that one woman was fatally shot by police.
“And now we have a young man who has lost his life because his registration was out of date,” he said.
“Something has to be done,” Ballard said. “We can’t continue to have moments of silence and candlelight vigils and marches and roundtables with elected officials and police officials. Honestly, they get us nowhere. It’s tragic. We need to do something to protect our citizens.”
Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, who has frequently butted heads with Ballard on other issues, told him, “I appreciate your vulnerability in what you shared.”
“I will always stand with you, and I will always unequivocally say that Black lives matter, and we will continue to keep conversations open and honest about law enforcement in our town,” said Triggiano, who serves as police commissioner in her role as council liaison to the department.
“Our country’s in a sad spot,” said Councilwoman Kathy Horgan.
Menna had opened the meeting by noting Wright’s death, calling it “a moment of turmoil for our country and our people.
“The psychology that is plaguing this country, and the use of violence and force, has to come to an end,” he said. “We have to take a look at all aspects of how we deal with each other as citizens of a democracy, and learn from the lessons of the past and move forward in a spirit of working together.”
Last year, after a raised-voices encounter between Ballard’s wife, Rose Sestito, and borough police, Ballard said the incident was “was not a race thing,” because his wife, like the responding officers, is white. No arrests or charges were filed.
Still, in a speech at Pilgrim Baptist Church a day later, Ballard called police handling of the call “over-agressive,” and said he felt that officers “were not being as compassionate as they could be.”
“We have a great police department, and we have great leadership” he said at the time. “But in that instance, it could have went very, very wrong.”
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