Patrolman Robert F. Hand Plaza
Some of us pass by it or travel on it every day. A small stretch of road, including a portion of Springfield Avenue between North Avenue and North Union Avenue, right along the path of the Cranford Police Department and Municipal Building, with a particularly long name . . . Patrolman Robert F. Hand Plaza. It was in 2010 that the dedication ceremony honoring Patrolman Hand took place, and the street renamed in his honor. A painting of him can be seen by the entrance to the council chambers. But how many of us actually know who Patrolman Hand was?
In 1975, the 45 year old, 19-year veteran of the Cranford police force was killed during a high-speed car chase, leaving behind two sons and two daughters. This tragedy is one of the reasons Cranford police do NOT engage in high-speed chases within the city today.
Robert Hand was born in 1930 and was raised in Jersey City before moving to Cranford. He attended St. Benedict’s High School and in 1947 joined the United States Air Force, where he served in the Korean Conflict and achieved the rank of Corporal. He received an Honorable Discharge in 1950, and was appointed to the Cranford Police Department on July 1, 1956, when he was assigned to the Patrol Division. Hand received a number of commendations during his career, including one in 1968 for breaking up a narcotics ring in which 10 people were arrested, and one in 1969 for his help in the arrest of a child molester and Army deserter.
During his time with the police department, Patrolman Hand was known as “The Senator” by fellow officers, due to his overly friendly nature which wouldn’t allow him to walk the city streets without stopping to greet everyone. He always took the time to stop and say hello to people. He was, above all, a servant of the public who always looked out for others.
So the next time you find yourself in the area of Springfield Avenue near the municipal building, look up and take notice of the street sign. And take a moment to silently thank Patrolman Hand, and his family, for their sacrifice in keeping our townspeople safe. And you may want to give the same thank you to the current day public servants who do the very same for us every day of their lives.