Police union details complaints against City

The police union yesterday announced their opposition to the proposed reductions in the police department.  Here’s their itemized list of concerns:

1) If there are 19 demotions, the City may save $220,000 and 18 layoffs may save $990,000 in salary and benefits for a total of $1.21 million. That’s a $75 per year savings for each of the City’s 16,000 taxpayers. That equates to approximately $1.50 per week. If this cut in policing causes a crime increase, property values will decline much more than $75. Some who would destroy the department made claims on their websites earlier this year that the police demotions would save $5.2 million. That is simply not true. As stated, the fact is that the savings would approximate only $220,000.

2) The Mayor has asserted since her first mayoral campaign in the Spring of 2009 that demotions would take police officers away from their desks and put them on the streets. She has further represented that layoffs and demotions will not reduce the numbers of officers patrolling the streets. It must be observed that 15 of the 19 officers being demoted perform their supervisory duties on the streets while on patrol.

Only 4 of the 19 are in administrative/staff positions. Laying off 18 officers and possibly putting four more officers on the streets is still a NET LOSS of 14 officers working on the streets of Hoboken.

3)Patrol to supervisor ratios are tabulated by calculating first line supervisors to patrol officers. Administrators, managers and other upper level supervisors are excluded from these ratios.. For example, the Chief does not supervise the dispatchers. An Army General does not supervise those who recently completed basic training. A CEO in a company does not supervise the mailroom. We have 97 patrolmen and 30 sergeants which is a 3.3 to 1 ratio. The table of organization calls for 120 patrol officers and 30 sergeants. That is a 4 to 1 ratio. Every police administration book suggests anywhere from a 3 to 5 officer to 1 supervisor ratio. We are well within that range. However, the Mayor and Director Alicea insist on suggesting that we have a 2 to 1 ratio number. This is obviously intended to rally residents against us. Alicea went further and commented on Hoboken Patch that they are following the police audit’s recommendation of a 4 to 1 ratio. That is simply and undeniably false. The City’s audit calls for 60 patrol officers and 26 sergeants–a 2.2 to 1 ratio. Based on that premise, the auditor, former Maplewood Chief Richardella is lowering our ratio, which means he concluded that the department is not “top heavy.”

4) On the same day that Mayor Zimmer announced layoffs, spokesman Juan Melli received a $15,000 raise and Mayoral Aide Daniel Bryan received a $12,000 raise.

5) Hoboken’s Parking Utilities have been hiring new employees regularly and ordering expensive equipment while the police department has suffered cuts to offset those costs. Where are the City’s priorities?

6) Attrition brings a gradual decline in staffing numbers so that there is no sudden impact on the level of public safety. If the City’s plan is implemented 37 officers will be laid off or demoted. In short, 24% of the department will be affected by the cuts.

7) The Memorandum of Agreement which was negotiated with and approved by the State Fiscal Monitor after more than two years of difficult but good faith negotiations would have resulted in 9 givebacks, including a change in healthcare coverage, change in prescription coverage, a reduction in salary differentials at the supervisory and managerial levels, and elimination of many days off. These changes would have saved the City nearly a million dollars per year. Why did the mayor and REVOLT so vigorously oppose an agreement that was settled with a state monitor? One can only conclude that they were motivated by a lack of knowledge and animosity towards the police. So here we sit nearly a year later in binding interest arbitration, creating more legal costs for the taxpayers, an agreement that will not be concluded for another year or two, facing 4 to 5 years worth of retroactive payments, no changes in healthcare, and 37 officers being cut instead. Again, where are the City’s priorities?

8) We understand that the Rockefeller group has been trying to make contact with the Mayor since November without a response. Their development would likely bring an additional $9 million dollars in tax revenue to Hoboken. It appears that Rockefeller was compelled to go to the media due to the lack of response by Mayor Zimmer.

9) The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and 4th of July were events in which our officers acted professionally and proficiently. There has not been to this date one note of recognition by the Mayor. Both days resulted in incidents where the HPD was forced to request more than 50 officers for mutual aid because there were insufficient HPD personnel working due to budget cuts. On St. Patrick’s Parade Day, HPD officers issued over $300,000 worth of fines that have been collected to date, with many cases still not resolved. The combined total cost for police overtime was $150,000.

10) The Hoboken population appears to far exceed the 38,000 reported in the 2000 Census. There are 28,000 residential units in the city and few would conclude that the ratio is less than 1.5 persons per unit. There are 16,000 property owners. Also, there are 130,000 commuters daily when considering all modes of transportation through the City.

11) Again, if the plan is implemented, our total number of officers will go from 153 to 135. We were at 185 six years ago, which helped the department to reduce our violent crime index and to operate our specialized units such as community policing, school resource officers, anti-crime units, traffic bureau, housing bureau, P.A.L., and bike patrol unit just to name a few. We may be headed to a level that is 27% lower than in the early 2000s. It ignores reality to think that service levels will not suffer when such draconian cuts are made.

12) The Public safety Committee Chairman is Ravi Bhalla. Since assuming that position, he has never met with any police union official.

13) Juan Melli states in the Hoboken Reporter that he disputes PBA President Lombardi’s comments because we have to understand that the city is “a hard-working family and tough choices had to be made.” We suppose that it was an equally tough choice for him to accept a $15,000 raise during the same week.

14) The police audit calls for the elimination of the Public Safety Director’s position. That has yet to occur and we doubt that it will ever occur.

15) Have City officials and certain residents chosen to ignore the violent crime indices of Jersey City and Union City as compared with Hoboken? While Jersey City and Union City hire more cops (which may have the effect of displacing crime because it can never be eliminated), the city that borders to the east, north and south of those cities (Hoboken) is cutting police. Is this really in the best interest of Hoboken’s residents and taxpayers?

16) The HPD has confronted a difficult public perception problem due to the SWAT/Hooters case. That incident occurred five years ago and the two people held responsible for the incident are no longer with the department. It is time for members of the administration and a certain few members of the public to move on and move away from their anti-police agenda.

17) On Wednesday, July 14, 2010, the PBA presented each member of the City Council with its own professional analysis from Northeast Labor Consultants which clearly points out many factual data errors, miscalculations and omissions in the state audit. It appears that the Mayor, City Council members, Business Administrator, Public Safety Director and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Bhalla have purposely and deliberately ignored the PBA expert’s findings and recommendations. At the council meeting, PBA Present Lombardi pleaded with the council members and the mayor to read the report and contact him with any questions or concerns. This has not happened. It is becoming apparent that the Mayor will proceed with police layoffs and demotions, regardless of what actual factual data is presented to her. As Mr. Lombardi has stated, “cuts are what she wants, but not what the city needs.”

The PBA and PSOA are convinced that these actions were motivated by personal and political animosity toward the police unions and their members – not by fiscal necessity

Photo: Courtesy

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