Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mack's wack cop plan

Well class, today’s lesson was going to be about “interns, internships and internship programs.”  Unfortunately, that will have to be postponed.

Instead, we are going to have to deal with a little matter about how the city of Trenton utilizes a police department that recently lost 1/3 of its officers due to layoffs.

First, a review:

Due to continued sagging finances, the city of Trenton needed to layoff employees in order to cut costs.  This process was nibbled around for nearly a whole year before Mayor Mack’s administration finally took a big bite out of the city payroll.  September 16, the city laid off a lot of employees, not the least of which were the 105 police officers.

The immediate effect of this was that the department had to lower the minimum staffing levels and still needed to post cop overtime to maintain those.

Besides demotions and layoffs, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (Detectives) and the Vice/Tactical Anti-Crime/Alcoholic Beverage Control units were reduced in size.

Not good for a city already seemingly on the brink of chaos.

Today the dreaded word came down.  Effective Friday, there would be no more tactical units.  No one to follow up on reports of prostitution, problem bars or narcotics sales.  Basically it means no more pro-active policing.

Why? So the Mayor can keep a promise he made to put more cops on foot patrol.

This decision is nothing short of asinine and dangerous. 

Foot patrols, as part of an overall policing strategy have their place. So do bicycle patrols.  But when you are short handed and budget impaired, they are not the most effective/efficient use of your manpower.  Putting foot posts in place at the same time you eliminate your tactical investigating units is a very bad decision.

Besides the wisdom of the decision itself, there are some other questionable aspects about the Mayor ordering the police department to disband some units.

First and foremost, reports indicate the directive came from the acting BA, Anthony Roberts.  Now as far as anyone knows, Mr. Roberts is NOT the Police Director nor is he a sworn law enforcement officer.  So how is it that he has any authority to dictate orders to the police department?

Second, Mayor Mack still utilizes a police officer as a driver, at least during business hours.  Why doesn’t he give that officer up and put him (or her) back on the street as part of the foot patrol?

And because the above wasn’t enough of a mess, the Federal Government announced the recipients of the COPS grants yesterday.  These were funds that would allow distressed cities to bring back some laid off officers. Trenton received $0.  Why is that? (We’re still looking into that question).

In response to all of this, the Mack Administration posted an announcement on the city website:

Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return
Release Date: September 28, 2011

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime
Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime

TRENTON–Mayor Tony F. Mack and the Trenton Police Department announced today, that 18 police officers will return to full-duty on Saturday, October 1. These officers will be paid from unspent money remaining in last year’s COPS Grant account and money from the scheduled retirement of eight police officers.

The reinstatement of these 18 police officers under the COPS Grant will not represent any increase in the current operating budget. As the Trenton Police Department is being reorganized to reflect a community policing model, these 18 officers will be assigned to the areas most needed for immediate relief.

The impetus for restructuring the Trenton Police Department comes from both the recent layoffs and from input received at Town Hall meetings. Trentonians want to see police officers out of their squad cars and in the community. This message was voiced at those city-wide town hall meetings and again at the administration’s public safety summit.

Trentonians want and need to see police officers walking in our neighborhoods and interacting with the community. This policy change will break down insecurities that exist between residents and our police department. This change underlies the community policing model.

Trenton needs a dramatic shift in our operations to prevent crime before it happens.
This model works in other urban cities, and it will work in Trenton. But, to do this effectively, we need the funding to bring all of our officers back to work.

The administration is investigating why the Capital City was seemingly ignored and abandoned from this year’s grant appropriation. While other municipalities recently received millions of dollars in grant monies, Trenton did not receive any federal assistance.


All well and good, except….

The residual funding from the 2009 grant will run out infour to nine months.  Then what happens to these 18 officers if there is no money found to pay them?  

More foolishness from the Mack administration; more worry for the citizens.

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