On March 25th of this year, I submitted a proposal to Union County Prosecutor Ted Romanow that, if adopted will lead, in my view, to a radical transformation in the way crime is addressed in Union County from its eastern end at Elizabeth to its western end at Plainfield. An article in yesterday's Star-Ledger has prompted me to go public with my proposal, given the number of similarities to what I proposed and what officials in Somerset County are now reviewing. My proposal is highlighted below in blue:
March 25, 2011
You may recall that a couple weeks ago, at the Gun Summit in Plainfield, I proposed the consolidation of all police departments in Union County under your leadership as Union County’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer. I was pleasantly surprised to open the Star Ledger yesterday to a story that talked about Governor Christie pitching the very same idea in Camden County, and that Joe DiVincenzo, Jr., Essex County Executive Director, and representatives from Mercer County were in attendance. I firmly believe that the time for shared service consolidation of all twenty-one police departments and the County Police under one law enforcement umbrella has arrived.
Hence, I believe it to be in the best interest of all twenty-one municipalities in Union County, for a plan to be put in place, or for what I would describe as a Blue Ribbon Panel to be assembled to begin a study that would, hopefully, lead to consolidation. The harsh economic realities of today require all leaders to think creatively and out of the box in order to find the most cost effective and efficient ways to deal with, not only our economic issues but our social issues as well, not least amongst them, drugs, gangs and guns. The gathering threat from an increase in violent crimes in the eastern and western ends of the County, and the rising tide of property taxes that threaten to overwhelm homeowners require bold action and leadership from all of us.
With that said, I am again stepping out on a limb to recommend consolidating all of the police departments in Union County, and creating regional precincts and sub precincts headed by Deputy Commissioners and senior Captains. All precincts would report to a County Police Commissioner who would in turn report to the County Prosecutor. What gains can be achieved from the consolidation of all twenty-two police departments, including the Union County police? I would suggest the following:
1. By appointing one Police Commissioner and four Deputy Commissioners to manage and direct countywide police operations, greater accountability and efficiency at a reduced cost can be achieved
2. The elimination of the rank of Police Chief/Director would result in significant cost savings
3. Reduction in the number of Police Captains and lieutenants would result in significant cost savings
4. The closing of all local police departments would reduce overhead costs
5. The establishment of four regional police precincts headed by Deputy Commissioners and sub-precincts, maybe four, headed by senior Police Captains would streamline operations and reduce costs over the long term
6. The creation of joint municipal courts or regional courts could be a bi-product of police consolidation
7. More effective police deployment and a greater police presence would be the end result
8. Heavier concentration of officer in hot spots to the eastern and western ends of the County would be a likely outcome
9. The replacement of the current 4 on 4 off work schedules with needs based work schedules would result in more officers being available on a daily basis
The above list represents some of the possible outcomes of consolidation, and is offered as a jumping off point for discussion. The need for a capital investment in new regional precincts or to expand existing facilities to create precincts will weigh heavily in the discussion. I am sure that there are a myriad of other issues that will have to be identified and addressed, hence the need for a Blue Ribbon Panel.
It is my hope, that my comment at the Gun Summit of a couple weeks ago, and this email, will be the spark that ignite a broader discussion about how best to provide police services to all of Union County more efficiently and more cost effectively. If these thoughts are already simmering in your mind, I encourage you to bring them to a boiling point.”
It is my hope that the above proposal that was sent to Prosecutor Romankow will spark a serious discussion by municipal officials, law enforcement personnel and citizens across Union County.
Let me close by acknowledging the excellent work done by our Plainfield Police Department in policing the streets of Plainfield with limited resources and manpower. The lack of sufficient resources and the right complement of officers, stemming from budgetary, disciplinary, legal, and other constraints affects our dedicated law enforcement personnel’s ability to deal as effectively as possible with crime in a way that would make all of our citizens feel safe on the streets and in their homes. The reality of crime and the accompanying perception of our city being a place to avoid are challenges that we must collectively work to overcome.
Hence, I am of the view that we must look beyond our borders for long term solutions that will allow for systemic remedies to Plainfield’s most pressing social ills: drugs, gangs, and guns. The consolidation of the twenty-two police departments, including the Union County Police, will result in lower cost to tax payers through greater economies of scale, enhanced neighborhood safety resulting from a greater police presence, better coordination of countywide crime fighting strategies, and the eventual elimination of disparities in police salaries. Police consolidation is a win for law enforcement and a win for the affected communities.
Police consolidation is a shared service whose time has arrived.