Spotswood’s Night Out a tribute to Gonzalez


SPOTSWOOD — This year’s National Night Out will be dedicated to the late U.S. Army Spc. Michael L. Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who grew up in Spotswood, was serving as a military policeman when he was killed in Iraq in August 2008 at the age of 20.

Police Sgt. Chris Bierman said he decided this year’s event and all future National Night Out events will be dedicated to Gonzalez because of his devotion to his country and because of his reputation in the community and with the police department in particular. Gonzalez served twice in the department’s Youth Police Academy, run by Bierman.

Gonzalez had planned on becoming a police officer. He was named as an honorary member of the Spotswood Police Department last September.

This year’s National Night Out will be held from 5-8 p.m. Aug. 4 on the grounds of the Spotswood Municipal Building, Summerhill Road.

The event has won Spotswood numerous prizes in the approximately six years the borough has participated in the nationwide activity. Bierman said this year’s will include food, a live band, information tables, police demonstrations and training, and a dunk tank where residents can try to dunk a police officer, coach, firefighter and Mayor Thomas Barlow.

In addition to police officers, residents can expect to see emergency medical technicians, firefighters and possibly FBI agents at the event. Local businesses will also be on hand, including First Rehab, an outpatient physical, occupational/hand and speech therapy practice, which is donating a bulletproof vest to the police department.

In addition, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, New Brunswick, is bringing a mobile hospital trailer to the event and will offer free health screenings, including blood pressure readings.

Bierman said the 7-Eleven store in Old Bridge donated food and soda.

National Night Out is held as a way of bridging the gap between residents and the law enforcement, allowing the community to join in the fight against crime and violence. Bierman said it also allows residents to personally get to know the officers.

“It’s to unite communities against crime and violence and to show communities we are committed to community policing, and that we are here to fight crime,” he said.

It is held throughout the U.S. every year on the first Tuesday of August.

The Spotswood event will also feature a police motorcycle demonstration, using the vehicle the department recently began to incorporate. Also, youngsters can bring their own bicycles and learn the right way to ride them and wear headgear. Bierman said police will also inspect the bicycles for safety. Spotswood Police Sgt. Philip Corbisiero will run the police motorcycle demonstration.

Bierman said the night will also include a presentation to the Gonzalez family, which still resides in Spotswood.

“It’s the best way to honor him for what he did for the country,” Bierman said about dedicating the event to Gonzalez.

Bierman said he is asking people who attend the event, which is free, to bring non-perishable food items to donate to Spotswood’s local food bank. The food will be dedicated in Gonzalez’ name “to continue his legacy and help people in our community,” he said.

Bierman knew Gonzalez from the academy sessions, and said they had talked about his decision to enter the military after graduating high school in 2006. He described Gonzalez as a “leader and a hard worker.”

“He showed tremendous dedication and caring. He had all the characteristics you could wish for in your own son,” Bierman said.

Borough Council President Curtis Stollen said Gonzalez “is still very much fresh in our minds.”

“His sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Stollen said.

He said dedicating such an event in his name is a “fitting tribute.”