Ex-Jersey City councilman: Probe $500k spent on housing authority police details

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Former Jersey City Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden urged his former colleagues, as well as the newly elected officials, to investigate at least $500,000 the city has allocated for police off-duty details at the local housing authority in recent years. 

“For years, the police division of the Jersey City Department of [Public] Safety has partnered with [the] housing authority to have police officers provide an enhanced and safe environment for its residents,” began Gadsden at last night’s council meeting.

“And in light of everything that was discussed with Chief [Philip] Zacche who may be investigated by the feds for stealing time, I think it’s time for the city council to investigate, and to open up an investigation, because I remember in February I did have questions inside of the caucus when we authorized about $350,000 to be used down at the housing sites throughout Jersey City.”

Zacche announced his retirement in April, effective June 1st, which came with a $513,000 check for unused sick and vacation time.

Then, earlier this month, the former police chief pleaded guilty to being paid nearly $32,000 in off-duty security details he did not actually perform at the local housing authority.

He was the 10th Jersey City police officer to plead guilty to being paid for work he did not perform and the investigation is ongoing.

Back at the podium, Gadsden noted that the partnership between the JCHA and the JCPD has existed since at least 2015 and has totaled around $500,000 to a million dollars in funding approved by the council.

While he acknowledged the council cannot perform any legal investigation, they still have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers to figure out exactly where that money was spent.

“We manage the finances of the city so we need to be investigating where, how that money was used: who did this, that and the third. We’re not doing fed work, we’re not doing what the prosecutor does, we’re just looking at how that money was doled out.”

Additionally, Gadsden called for a civilian review board, not to be confused with the city’s public safety advisory board, to provide further oversight into police matters.

He was briefly joined at the podium by Shiron Cooper, a man who was hit by a Jersey City police car twice in August.

After surveillance video and media reports of the incident surfaced, the officer, Sgt. John Ransom, was indicted by the prosecutor’s office earlier this month.

Gadsden said this incident was a prime example of the type of police matter that needs to be reviewed by an independent body.

“He was chased and he was ran over by a police cruiser. Shiron’s story would not have come out unless videos, and things like that, were leaked. Once the video was leaked to media outlets, then we got knowledge of the fact that, in August, he was ran over.”

The council took no formal action as a result of Gadsden’s remarks and a city spokeswoman for the mayor’s office did not return an email seeking comment.

Mayor Steven Fulop has previously said he wouldn’t be surprised if “off-duty jobs go away entirely in 2018” as a result of the ongoing federal probe.