Jersey City POBA president-elects talks making union changes, addressing community concerns

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Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association President-Elect Joe Cossolini talked about making union changes, addressing community concerns, and more during a lengthy phone interview last week.

From left to right: newly elected Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association 2nd Vice President Jimmy Woods, President Joe Cossolini, and Vice President Rashaun Spence. Photo courtesy of Joe Cossolini.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The reason why we were successful was the diversity of our ticket: it reflected the makeup of the department, years on the job, gender, and everything else. Not that Carmine didn’t do that, but nine years is a long time and I think his message got lost,” Cossolini explained.

His team pulled off a clean sweep last month, including defeating longtime POBA President Carmine Disbrow, who was first elected in 2012 and was unsuccessful in securing a fourth consecutive term.

Cossolini and the other newly elected union officers will take over by the third week of May and there is no shortage of topics to tackle at the moment.

As far as what he plans on doing for his union members, Cossolini said he’s looking forward to opening a second headquarters on MLK Drive.

“We live in the district, I walk to work every day. That’s the best way to have community relations, shake hands, talk, and collectively come up with solutions,” he said.

Additionally, the POBA executive board will be buying body armor for members who were improperly fitted or have expired vests. This will be possible by the board donating their union allowances back to the membership.

On the citywide level, the POBA, along with the Police Superior Officers Association, are suing the city and the city council following the approval of a resolution on April 15th that supports the creation of a civilian complaint review board (CCRB) once Trenton legislators pass Assemblywoman Angela McKnight’s (D-31) bill.

He acknowledged that the court filing may not be popular in some circles, but said it may be necessary to get the Jersey City Police Department a seat at the negotiating table.

“If it’s legislated through the state and it gets passed, it’s something that we’re going to have to work with and I’d rather be in the room for the conversation than to be on the sidelines,” he rationalized.

Also last month, a “Black Power Rally” in Jersey City drew strong reactions citywide due to an instance where the crowd chanted “f*** the pigs.”

Cossolini said that while he understands the unrest, he feels there are better ways to move this conversation forward and that this mindset is not common in Greenville.

“Jersey City is different than a lot of other cities. In Jersey City, the cops are the community. Most of us live here. A couple of people chanting on Martin Luther King Drive, while their feelings may be valid, I don’t think it holds a place in civic discourse,” he said.

“It makes it harder for us to change things. As someone whose lived and worked here [Greenville] for most of my career, I can tell you they want the cops in our neighborhoods. 100 people don’t speak for the 60,000 residents of Greenville.”

He also expressed a willingness to meet with residents and speak with those who have had negative experiences with the police in hopes of effectuating positive change.

Furthermore he said that neighbors frequently express quality of life issues and indicate that they want more police on their streets, not less.

“The whole idea of defund the police is kind of drowned out by the side streets off of MLK Drive and Ocean Avenue and they want quality of life issues taken care of and there just aren’t enough officers to take care of them,” noting that he thought it would be great to see the department hit 1,000 officers soon.