Community thanks Newark cop for watching over Ivy Hill

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on June 02, 2015

Newark Detective Michael Beasley who has been beat cop for 18 years in the Ivy Hill section, stands in front of the Mt. Vernon School on his last day with the Newark Police Department. Known as a pro-active police officer, Beasley is credited withe helping to get rid of drug dealers and kept residents from leaving because of his presence. He got to know their families, the children, the school principals.

 

Newark Police Detective Michael Beasley tried to hide his tears during a neighborhood meeting at Ivy Hill Elementary School.

He looked down at the floor in the auditorium. He turned to the side, wiping away the moisture collecting in his eyes.

Beasley could handle retiring from the police department last Friday, but he dreaded being this vulnerable in front of a community telling him what he meant to them after 18 of his 25 years on the force.

"Your work helped to save this neighborhood,'' says Houston Stevens, president of the Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association. "Thank you, my brother. We love you."

On his watch, residents say Beasley got rid of drug dealers. Burglaries were down, car thefts, too. He was known as "Robo Cop," a nickname that reflected his strong, no-nonsense street presence.

Beasley, clearly moved by their praise, pinched his nose with his forefingers and looked out into the intimate gathering of people wishing him well a week before his departure.

"How do you say goodbye to people who are your family, many you may not see again?" he asks.

They both chose to say "So long, good friend"– and to talk about the way he restored order when he came into their lives in 1995.

Ivy Hill became his beat that summer after he won a copy infringement lawsuit against the city. A judge ruled that Newark did not have rights to "People Against Car Theft,'' a program Beasley created as a patrol cop to deter kids from stealing cars.

When Beasley was about to sell the program to East Orange, Newark filed suit arguing that the officer developed PACT on the job and, therefore, it belonged to the city. The administration settled with Beasley for $100,000 and the officer says he found himself assigned to the furthest outpost in the West Ward.

What could be viewed as punishment, Beasley says, turned out to be true community policing – what society often calls for when officers and the public clash.

"I have had an incredible career in actually doing something that people only talk about," he says. "And that is being a community police officer."

Beasley, now 58, had no police car and no partner before George Torres teamed up with him for 15 years.

He walked the streets and got to know business owners, residents and families. He eventually did it with Torres, too, who says Beasley taught him how to be a cop and to listen to residents.

"He really believed in what he was doing," Torres says.

Residents had Beasley's personal cell phone number. He knew birthdays and solved problems. He straightened out wayward kids and encouraged many who looked up to him, including 15-year-old Gabrielle Greene, who gave him a retirement card.

"I told him I was going to miss him," she says.

On his school detail and in the neighborhood, residents say Beasley was firm, fair and tough. He ticketed motorists who parked illegally and locked up lawbreakers. Kids got to school safely and he didn't let them loiter on their way home.

Lois Greene, a recipient of one of his tickets, reminded him of that day jokingly, but thanked him for getting kids to understand and respect authority.

"It was a good experience for kids to understand that police officers serve a purpose, that they are there to protect you and to keep you safe," says Greene, who is Gabrielle's mother.

The relationship Beasley and Torres had with residents doesn't happen often and doesn't happen overnight. It takes years, he says, something most officers don't get to do because they aren't assigned to one post for a length of time.

Beasley and Torres were unique. They wanted to be in the West Ward and the community spoke up whenever the police administration tried to move them.

The assignment, like all things, finally ended two years ago. Beasley was then assigned to community affairs and became a detective; Torres, now president of the Hispanic Law Enforcement Society, works with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

On Friday, Beasley went back to the neighborhood to say goodbye. He visited Mount Vernon School, where residents say he ushered the neighborhood through a tough time when three college friends were killed behind the elementary school building.

"Everyone could count on him," says Principal Bertha S. Dyer, of their relationship. "He was always here. It was a good marriage between the school, students, teachers and parents."

As he walked the halls, teachers took pictures with him. Students in one class read passages from "Peter Pan," and several raised their hands when asked who wants be a police officer. On his way out, fifth-graders in the hallway cornered him with a group hug.

"You're retiring Officer Beasley?"asked Yanae Latif, 11, in disbelief. "You're a good police officer."

That's why he's not giving up on his anti-car theft program. Beasley is working on it again and this chapter brings his connection to the community full circle.

The spokesperson for the program was one of the many kids he crossed safely to school.

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