Panel Discussion Airs Community Complaints About Press and Police Conduct

The panel drew a passionate audience to discuss issues of press and police interactions with the community.The panel drew a passionate audience to discuss issues of press and police interactions with the community.

MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (SBN) —A panel discussion on relations between the press, the police and the public drew a passionate audience to Rowan College at Burlington County last night. The discussion was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, the NAACP of Southern Burlington County, Rowan College and the Keystone Pro Chapter of SPJ.

State Broadcast News livestreamed the program, as members of the community described their frustrations with police misbehavior and press coverage of community complaints. The panel stemmed from a recent incident in Mount Laurel in which abusive and racist behavior by a white resident against residents of color led to his arrest after years of complaints were ignored.

You can watch the entire panel discussion in the video player below.



Melanie Burney, The Philadelphia Inquirer: Melanie joined the Inquirer in March 2000 as an education reporter, then served five years on the Inquirer’s editorial board. Currently, she is a general assignment reporter based in the Cherry Hill bureau. Born in Akron, Ohio, she grew up in Burlington County. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, serving two terms as parliamentarian on the board of directors. She is also a member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. She is also a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a member of Theta Pi Omega Chapter in South Jersey. She is also in her second term as a member of the Rowan University Alumni Board of Directors.

Blake Nelson,, New Jersey Advance Media: Blake covers the New Jersey attorney general’s office, state police and prison system for The Star-Ledger and, where he was previously on the data and investigations team. He has covered the Missouri statehouse for The Associated Press, reported abroad for Public Radio International, filmed for The Wall Street Journal, hosted Investigative Reporters and Editors’ podcast, contributed reporting to The New Yorker and drawn for Poynter Institute. He spent several years writing for magazines in Guatemala and has shot video with UNICEF, World Vision and other non-profits throughout Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean. He earned a graduate journalism degree at the University of Missouri.

April Saul, WHYY: April Saul is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose lifelong mission has been to help people understand each other better through her writing and photography. She fell in love with Camden in 2011 at a time when the city was bleeding badly, and left her staff job at The Philadelphia Inquirer to dedicate herself to covering the challenges and joys of Camden residents on her Facebook page, CAMDEN, NJ: A Spirit Invincible, where her essays about that city appear several times a month.

Law Enforcement & Academia

Thomas Eicher, Office of the New Jersey Attorney General

Dr. Amber Ciccanti served with the Willingboro Police Department as a patrol officer, detective, and sergeant. She has a master’s degree and a doctorate degree in the field of criminal justice and serves on the faculty of Rowan College at Burlington County.

Corey Jones served with the Mount Laurel Police Department for 25 years, retiring as a sergeant. He was also a member of the SWAT Team for over fifteen years and became one of the leaders of the Burlington County Regional Team. he is also an instructor in verbal de-escalation and weapons platforms at his business, Safetyman Consulting.

Joe Rizzo comes from a background in corrections, serving the New Jersey Department of Corrections first as an educator, then as an education director, next as an assistant superintendent, and lastly as superintendent (warden), of two different prisons. He is a faculty member with Rowan College at Burlington County in the Criminal Justice Department.


Marcus Sibley is the Chairman of the New Jersey State Conference NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Committee, Chairman of the New Jersey Progressive Equitable Energy Coalition (NJ PEEC), and the President of the historic Southern Burlington County NJ NAACP Branch. He is the the architect of the Empowerment Workshop Series and a graduate of Rutgers University, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work. Mr. Sibley is also the owner of consulting & integrated marketing company Sanaa17 LLC.

Tyrus Langston Ballard is the 1st Vice President and Political Action Chair for the Southern Burlington County NJ NAACP (SBCNJ NAACP), Sergeant at Arms for the South Jersey Young Democrats Black Caucus (SJYD-BC), a core member of Black Lives Matter NJ, and a coach for the Willingboro/Burlington chapter of the New Jersey Orators (NJO). He is a 3-time NAACP Freedom Fund Award recipient. One of Tyrus’s proudest accomplishments are his collaborations between SBC-NAACP and SJYD-BC to organize networking events for local activists and leaders.