NJ Polish Cops Launch ‘Long Overdue’ Association

Members of the Polish American Police Association of New Jersey attend the 2012 Pulaski Parade. (Photo via Nowy Dziennik, courtesy of PAPA-NJ)

Police officers of Polish origin can be found pretty much all over New Jersey, and have served the state’s community for many years. However it wasn’t until June last year that they formed their own association.

“There are many policemen of Polish origin in New Jersey. Practically, wherever you go there is a Polish officer,” said Robert Centkowski, a detective from Elmwood Park, N.J. and chairman of the Polish American Police Association of New Jersey, who was born in the United States but is still in touch with his extensive family in Slupsk, Poland. At the Elmwood Park Police Department, where he’s a detective, there are three “full Poles” and a couple of officers of Polish origin.

“This organization was long overdue. There are Italian, Irish and other police associations in New Jersey. Only Polish cops didn’t have their own for a long time,” says Detective Centkowski, who had previously signed up as a member in a similar organization in Chicago, but owing to the distance could not participate in any of the events and initiatives. Finally, with the help of his two colleagues, and police officers from the Italian American Police Society and the NYPD Pulaski Association, he created the Polish American Police Association of New Jersey.

PAPA-NJ was founded in June 2012 and after six months of operation, has some 90 members now.

“The Polish American Police Association of New Jersey is a nonprofit organization comprised of active and retired law enforcement officials and other members. The purpose of this association is to promote the welfare and image of Polish-American law enforcement officials and to render assistance and support to the New Jersey Polish-American Community through educational, social, and benevolent activities,” the founders write on the organization’s website: www.papaofnj.org.

In its short history, the organization has marked its presence in many ways. Representatives of PAPA-NJ marched in the Pulaski Parade in 2012 and took part in Polish Day organized by officials in Morris County, N.J. Before Christmas, they organized a toy drive, donating gifts for Toys for Tots. In the spring, together with the NYPD Pulaski Association, PAPA-NJ plans to organize a drive to help poor families in Poland. “Police departments in Poland are helping us locate families in need,” Detective Centkowski said.

PAPA-NJ has also established a scholarship fund, to which donations can be sent via the organization’s website. “Once we collect an appropriate amount, we would like to support a student of Polish origin, who has academic achievements and is active in their community,” said Detective Centkowski.

In the meantime, on the first Friday of February, PAPA-NJ held its first annual gala at Royal Manor Banquet Hall in Garfield, N.J. During the gala, the organization honored Wallington Councilwoman Celina Urbankowski for her dedication and contribution to the Polish-American community, as well as the presidents of the Italian American Police Society of New Jersey and NYPD Pulaski Association for their assistance in the process of creating the first ever Polish-American association for police officers of Polish origin in N.J.

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