Friday, March 21, 2008

Help me with this

Contradiction and confusion between 319 E. State St and 225 N. Clinton Ave
The Mayor and his well-paid North Jersey attorney want Judge Feinberg and the residents of Trenton to believe that if Joe Santiago is ordered to vacate his office immediately, the Capital City will be at grave risk of being overrun by the criminal element. Therefore, they argue, the termination of Joe Santiago's tenure as Trenton Police Director because of his non-resident status should be stayed pending an appeal or until an orderly transition of authority can be made.

Of course, the legal wheels on this residency issue have been grinding for a couple of months. Why haven't the city and police administrations made prior plans for this transition, "just in case?" Seems to me the inaction of our leadership has put the public safety at risk by not having succession planning in place.

And didn't we just go through this with Barry Colicelli case?

Just for the sake of argument, let's consider that the Mayor is correct and the city is at increased risk without the steady hand of Joe Santiago at the command of the Police Department. Attorney George Dougherty, who represented the citizens in their fight to have the residency ordinance upheld (and who is himself a Trenton resident), rightfully asks if the safety and security of Trentonian's was then compromised every time Mr. Santiago was absent from his desk due to illness, vacation, or just plain not being around.

Excellent point, of course.

And if we weren't "unsafe" enough, now comes the issue of the request for City Council to authorize an expenditure of $200,000 for new police firearms. Currently the city city uses Glock handguns. The proposed contract would be for new guns from Springfield Armory. Through a police spokesman, Santiago has said that City Council can opt not spend the $200,000 and go for the free, "inferior weapon" and intimated that doing so would be unsafe for the police as well as the public.

But with safety a concern, was the Police Director himself or a designated representative present at the City Council meeting to make the case for the switch?

Of course not.

So to sum up:
Trentonians are at risk if Joe Santiago is summarily and immediately dismissed as Police Director. There will be presumed chaos in a police department that functioned quite well (arguably better) for over 200 years prior to Santiago's appointment as Police Director. The public will be at risk.

Since his appointment five years ago Santiago has been at best a part-time city resident and for the last two or more years has made no pretense about living 50 plus miles away from Trenton. His frequent absences do not put the public at risk.

The city should spend $200,000 to change weapons for the police department when the current supplier will provide new guns free of charge. Saving money by staying with an alleged "inferior" weapon* puts the police and the public at risk.

The police director has no problem if City Council decides to keep the "inferior" weapon, but he couldn't be bothered to attend the meeting and make his case for the allegedly safer choice.

Does this mean that the public is again at risk, but the Director doesn't care enough to make his case for minimizing that risk?

Through all of the contradiction and confusion one thing is clear, Joe Santiago is not interested in serving the people of the City of Trenton any more than he is interested in living here.

Guess it is just time for him to go. Now.

We did a quick Google search and came up with this discussion thread that concluded there is no real difference between the two weapons under consideration. And the cops we've checked with seem to agree. Why spend the money for something that is essentially the same as the no cost option?


Capital 3 said...

Just a tad off subject- sorry; However, I still can't understand why Santiago could never reside in Trenton. Trenton has a number of wonderful and safe neighborhoods with active homeowner associations. Why couldn't Santiago live in Mill Hill, Berkeley Square, or Hiltonia?

All I've heard is about 'threats' against his family. What threats? Also, if the threats are so severe, what's keeping these insitgators from driving to Morris County?

If ANY police director (or any law enforcement officer, for that matter) moves to an area, the community rallies around him and neighborhoods become more desirable. When shopping for houses in Providence, special note was made of the 'North End', which was popular with Providence Police needing to fulfill a similar residency requirement. Property values rose, pedestrian zones were landscaped and more people moved to the area. Isn't this what Trenton needs? Shouldn't this be complimentary to the anti-crime efforts of any Police Director?

Good riddance- If he couldn't find SOMEWHERE in Trenton to live, it seems he was never really interested in developing the city.

Old Mill Hill said...

Capital 3, you are not that far off subject.

Your assertions are correct. There are several fine neighborhoods in Trenton that would welcome and champion the presence of a Police Director (there was actually a friendly little battle between neighborhoods when former Director Golden was searching for a home in Trenton)

More importantly, the situation is just more proof of the Director, with the blessing of Mr. Palmer, saying and doing what he feels is in his best interest, not the city's, even if it violates the law.

And that, my friend, is the crux of the whole matter.

Do the Mayor and Police Director have to follow the laws or not.

So far, the Judge has said they do.

Capital 3 said...

If you have a bit of time, care to elaborate & educate me on former Director Golden? Did he better the city during his tenure?

Old Mill Hill said...

That's an interesting and perhaps loaded question and maybe one or the other handful of readers will chime in with their thoughts as well.

First, let's remember that it appeared as though, once the referendum creating the Police Director position passed, the administration (in the person of Mr. Palmer) dragged its feet in finding and selecting a candidate to fill the position. Some six months or seven months dragged on with no appointment and some of the good people in this town started feeling maybe they had been duped into doing the Mayor's dirty work by voting for the referendum and therefore doing away with the police chief.

Whatever the reasoning and rationale at the time, Mr. Golden was presented to the public and city council as the designated appointee in something like February of 2000.

Immediately, there were those who set about digging up "dirt" on Mr. Golden to discredit him while others sat down at the table, rolled up their sleeves and got to work trying to implement some changes in the way the department functioned.

The view from the stoop has been that Mr. Golden was a studied, composed and gentelmanly individual who worked very hard (and we think effectively) at building a sustainable working relationship between the police and the public. He was a firm believer in the Community Policing model; he struggled to bring Bill Bratton's ComStat concept to Trenton even though we were operating in a technologically primative and inefficient manner at the time; and he worked tirelessly to engage the community as much as he worked to win over some of the old guard in the department.

Some might say he was "too nice" to be effective. And there was certainly resistance to his position and some of his plans from some of the PBA and SOA leadership, but it never rose to the level of personal attacks that have marked the Santiago era.

One could hazard a guess that, in retrospect, the members of the PD who were lukewarm to Mr. Golden at the beginning wish he had not moved on and left the door open for the mess we have now.

At the end of the day, Golden was accessible to the public, the press and public officials; he was personable; and he was accountable.

The fact that he still resides in Trenton and is still involved with various aspects of the community is a testament to his character.

If nothing else, Mr. Golden understood that he was legally bound to be a resident of the city that employed him. He also understood that he was here to serve 85,000 people and not just one despotic Mayor.

Yes, we think things were better when Jim Golden was the Police Director. And if he'd have been given the open checkbook and time that Joe Santiago has had, the Department and the City would be much, much better off.

Others may think differently and we'd love to hear rational and reasoned responses.

Capital 3 said...

Thank you for the insight; true it was a loaded question, but considering I moved here during the tenure of Santiago. I saw the crime rate drop (as that of Philadelphia increased). It's good to know Director Golden worked hard to better the city.

An interesting side note I'd like to share with your readers. Today's Washington Post online includes an article about the housing slump. As the national average of home prices has dropped some 8%, certain areas have experienced increase, including Trenton, NJ. Perhaps we're finally being discovered.

Old Mill Hill said...

Well, rising and dropping Crime Rates are a whole nother story.

With the advent of Community Policing initiatives under Director Golden, we were advised that we would most likely see an increase in calls for service and reported crimes as the public was engaged and made aware of the importance of "calling in everything."

Under Santiago, there is no doubt that calls for service and "reported crimes" have declined, but at least some of that is due to the "reclassification" of crimes from Part I (serious) crimes to lesser types of events and the subsequent drop off of calls from the public.

Similarly, while it is good news that "Trenton" housing prices have not dropped as much as the national average, it is probably not as much the City of Trenton as it is the Trenton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) or, essentially, all of Mercer County that has seen an increase. Judging from the number of "For Sale" signs I see, my guess is prices might be up a little, but overall number of sales is down.