Acting in the public interest, serving public trust

Acting in the public interest, serving public trust


In recent days, questions have been raised about Rowan University’s employment of a former police officer who was involved in a controversial incident that led to pain and division in our community more than two decades ago. 

Amid the national spotlight on social justice and police matters, the University will not reappoint Peter Amico, director of Rowan’s Office of Emergency Management, at its June 10 Board of Trustees meeting.  

In 1994, Amico was one of the Glassboro police officers who responded to a domestic call. His split-second decision in the line of duty led to the death of El Tarmaine “L.T.” Sanders, a black 14-year-old. The incident understandably shook the community. However, after examining the evidence, a Gloucester County grand jury decided not to bring charges. The U.S. Department of Justice also launched an investigation to determine whether El Tarmaine’s civil rights were violated, and decided a year later it would take no further action. The Sanders family and many others protested and rallied in their pursuit of justice, but the legal system left them without further recourse.  

Amico served another 15 years on the force before he retired in 2009. He began working with Rowan as a private contractor in Sept. 2008 on Rowan’s Department of Public Safety accreditation application process. He was later hired full-time in late 2010, after a background check. He was named director of Rowan’s Office of Emergency Management in 2013, an administrative role responsible for preparing and responding to emergencies such as natural disasters and other crises.

Managerial employment 
Given the circumstances of Amico’s employment prior to serving at the University and the necessarily painstaking evaluation of Rowan’s institutional commitment to racial justice and equity, Amico’s employment will be discontinued. His name will not be included on the managerial appointment list being acted upon at the June 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

Public trust
We cannot begin to imagine the Sanders’ family grief. Nothing can replace their loved one.  

We also acknowledge the difficulty police officers encounter when called to face uncertain conditions, as well as the public scrutiny they endure in their work among us. 

Complex and troubling issues abound in our world. Rowan University is dedicated to educating and equipping people to make a difference by understanding and addressing complicated matters and standing for those who too often are vulnerable and voiceless. We will do all we can to rebuild and strengthen the structure of our institution. Because we are charged with public trust, we will continue the hard work of doing what is right, even when it is painful. 

As a University, we believe black lives matter. We are looking hard at our own organization, our policies, structure and culture. We found we have work to do. I am sure some of it will be more difficult and uncomfortable than we can imagine. We will be transparent in our transformation and look for opportunities to engage with the University community to bring about much-needed change.

Our self-examination and our responses will be guided by a clear understanding of the institution we want to become. 

Very truly yours,

Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D.