After wrangling, police hiring approved. Mayor and chief will push for new cops, promotions, and satellite office in projects

After wrangling, police hiring approved

Mayor and chief will push for new cops, promotions, and satellite office in projects
11/17/2002 Hoboken Reporter

Late Thursday afternoon, Mayor David Roberts and Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno sat in the mayor's office together. There, in a cooperative effort, the two worked out aspects of a joint statement announcing the city's intention to hire approximately 17 new police officers and reorganize the Hoboken Police Department's structure.

The statement was the culmination of a tense week where LaBruno and City Hall argued over public pressure LaBruno had put on the mayor and City Council to replenish what he said was a short-staffed police force.

LaBruno had, the previous week, told another newspaper that the city was going to hire 17 new police officers -- without actually getting approval from City Hall, which would do the hiring.

LaBruno's claim of a need for more police was bolstered by an increase in violent crime over the past year, something that has occurred in other towns in this faltering economy.

"The mayor and the chief of police have developed a reorganization plan within the Hoboken Police Department, which will result in increased foot patrols," said Roberts and LaBruno in the joint statement Thursday afternoon. "The city is committed to a strong police presence, and additional uniformed officers will be deployed onto the city's streets."

According to Roberts and LaBruno, the two have agreed to approach the City Council with a three-pronged plan. The City Council is the governing body that must approve police hiring or reorganization proposals. Roberts and LaBruno said Thursday that their new programs "will be initiated in approximately one month."

Hiring 17 cops

The first part of the plan is the hiring of up to 17 new police. According to LaBruno, this will be done by using grants that are part of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) program. Under the COPS program, the grants will pay for 75 percent of the new officers' salaries for three years. After the three years are up, the city will have to absorb the salary of those officers.

LaBruno has recently said that he believes some of these grants might expire on Dec. 1. But City Business Administrator Robert Drasheff confirmed Friday morning that these grants, in fact, are good for several more months, and the City Council has plenty of time to act on them before they expire.

"The chief and I are committed to utilizing these grants to the fullest extent," said Roberts Thursday afternoon.

Police reorganization

The second aspect of the mayor's and LaBruno's plan is to reorganize the police department by creating three new departments. According to the joint statement, the reorganization plan will result in the creation of the bureaus of traffic, transportation and pedestrian safety, public housing, and school partnership.

According to LaBruno, the department has already assigned 16 officers to traffic detail and nine to school detail. The reorganization will also mean that several promotions will be necessary. At least three captains will need to join the ranks, assuming that the City Council approves, said LaBruno.

LaBruno added that Lt. Daniel Simone, a 25-year veteran of the department, is most likely to be promoted to captain to head the school bureau. Lt. Robert Lisa, an 18-year veteran, will likely take over the Traffic and Transportation Bureau, and Karen Dimondi, also an 18-year veteran, will likely become captain and take over the housing bureau.

According to LaBruno, if approved, the union has agreed that all of the promoted officers will wave their increase in salary for one year to lessen the impact on the budget for the upcoming year.

Eventually three sergeants will have to be promoted to replace the three lieutenants, and then three officers will have to be promoted to replace those sergeants. LaBruno didn't release the names of who would be promoted to those positions and did not give a timetable for those promotions. He even said that he might recommend temporarily holding off on the sergeant promotions, because to do so would mean removing officers from the street and placing them in the station.

The mayor and chief also jointly announced Thursday that it is their goal to build a satellite precinct in the Housing Authority and greatly step up the police presence in city's west side projects.

Town meetings

The final aspect of the mayor and chief's announcement is that the city will shortly begin conducting a series of town meetings to listen to the concerns of citizens and provide information about the city's police protection.

While the dates of these meetings have not yet been decided, Roberts said that these meetings will give the public the opportunity to ask the police chief questions the city's police deployment. The meetings will also give the public the opportunity to validate any rumors of crime that they might have heard and tell the chief about any possible trouble spots in the city.

Mended fences

The conciliatory appearance of Roberts and LaBruno's joint statement Thursday was a far cry from the tense and adversarial roles that the two took earlier in the week. While LaBruno would later retract many of his comments, the police chief was highly critical of the mayor and City Council in a Tuesday interview. At that time he said that Roberts promised him the force's numbers would be replenished, but as of then he had not delivered.

He added that he assumed the additional duties associated with traffic and school details with the understanding that the council, in a reasonable timeframe, would vote to hire more officers and reorganize the department to recognize the new departments. He even said that he is so short-staffed that until the city approved additional staffing, he was prepared to remove the officers assigned to the school and traffic duties.

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