Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Police Consolidation: A Shared Service Whose Time Has Arrived

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

“Hello Ted:

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.



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Give Generously to Help the Family of Eduardo Leaty

Plainfield’s Latest Victim of Gun Violence

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the tragic death of Eduardo Leaty in a senseless act of gun violence at the family store on East Sixth Street. Eduardo was the brother of City of Plainfield employee Marilyn Leaty-Nieves, and brother-in-law to one of Plainfield’s bravest, firefighter Samuel Nieves. This latest homicide is Plainfield’s 8th since January of this year and the 13th in the past 12 months.

The death of Mr. Leaty is a sad reminder of the terrible toll that gun violence and other criminal acts have taken in our city. No family should have to experience the loss of a loved one at the hands of another human being. We must, now more than ever, come together using the CGPS approach (see my blog post dated May 18, 2011) to address this problem if we are to save lives and save our city. Politics of division have no place in a city where a hurricane of volcanic proportion has been erupting to consume many innocent lives in its path. We must act cooperatively, collectively, and collaboratively to stem this ever rising tide of violence; if we do not, more Poppy Harlows (the CNN correspondent whose report contained much inaccurate information) will come knocking, and the city’s reputation will continue in a free fall.

Hence, a month or so ago, I provided Mayor Robinson-Briggs with templates on successful crime strategies used in Salinas and San Jose, cities that are comparable in size to Plainfield and that once experienced the level of gang and gun violence that Plainfield is experiencing today. The templates were provided by Pastor Dr. Lamont Thomas through his anti-gun violence initiative. I offered myself as a resource to work with the mayor on the formulation of strategies aimed at eliminating gangs, guns and violence from our city.

In the meantime, the tragic and violent death of Eduardo Leaty has left the family in great need of financial and other assistance. I am asking those of you who are able, to make a financial contribution to help with the funeral arrangements; your contributions can be made to:

Marilyn Leaty-Nieves 632 West Front Street, Plainfield, NJ 07060

Please be as generous as you can. I know that Marilyn and her entire family would be grateful for your assistance. I take this opportunity to express my deepest feelings of condolence to Marilyn and Samuel Nieves, and to the entire Leaty family.