Jersey City police union presidents make their cases for keeping off-duty details

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The presidents of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association and the Jersey City Police Superiors Association, respectively, made their cases as to why the city should not abolish off-duty security details: “there’s no cost savings at all.”

“We have met with the city on several occasions. We have given them proposals to keep the program going. The bottom line is that we had less than one percent of the police department [that] was convicted of wrongdoing with the off-duty program,” Jersey City POBA President Carmine Disbrow said at the North District precinct this afternoon.

“Which means that 99 percent of the department has done nothing wrong. And right now, 99 percent of the department is wearing a black eye for the one percent. So we’ve met with the city on a couple of occasions. We’ve made suggestions in writing, verbally, to revamp the program so that there will be no further corruption in the future.”

The off-duty program has undergone intense scrutiny in the past couple of years since the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI began investigating alleged no-show jobs.

10 officers from the Jersey City Police Department have pleaded guilty to related charges, including former Police Chief Philip Zacche, and three have received jail sentences.

In December 2017, Mayor Steven Fulop said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the city phased out the off-duty jobs in the following year and announced just that in February.

While details continued through 2018, the mayor said earlier this week that the details will soon be a thing of the past, citing the ongoing corruption probe.

All of that didn’t appear lost on Disbrow, who suggested bringing in a retired federal judge to oversee the program going forward, but he claims city officials never responded to that suggestion and only indicated verbally that the program would be disbanded.

“This program isn’t just beneficial to the police officers, it’s more beneficial to the taxpayers,” he also emphasized, noting that contractors were covering the costs before, while that may not necessarily be the case for on-duty state police officers or “flag men.”

“Everybody likes to see the cops: when you go to the mall, you want to see the cops, when you’re walking down the block, you don’t care if he’s at a construction site: he’s on your block,” added Jersey City Police Superiors Association President Bobby Kearns.

“That doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything: why do you want to do away with this?”

In addition to suggesting a program monitor, Disbrow said that his union also offered to bring in a computer system to better track officers working off-duty, as well as opening the door for the Internal Affairs Unit to oversee off-duty details.

“It’s not just a stain on the police officers who are here now, it’s a stain on the retired police officers. Anyone whose ever worked here is now wearing this black eye caused by 10 people right now, 10 people who have been convicted of wrongdoing in the off-duty program.”

According to Kearns, both the POBA and the PSA have welcomed more oversight to the program dating back to the Mayor Jerramiah Healy administration, but no one seems to be open to implementing change.

“We’re not against oversight, monitoring the program, in any way, shape or form: that works for everybody. A federal judge or an outside company: they’re effective, that’s why people have brought them in, it works,” he exclaimed.

In conclusion, Disbrow said that Fulop was incorrect when he said this was in the best interest of the taxpayer, since Jersey City police were being paid $50 an hour for an off-duty shift, compared to $100 per hour for state police and $50 to $60 an hour for “flag men.”

“There’s no cost savings at all. Actually, it’s probably costing more money for the vendors, so the mayor’s argument that this is going to ease the burden on the taxpayers is completely false.”

City spokeswoman Ashley Manz said on Thursday morning that the federal corruption probe negatively impacted the entire city and was “an embarrassment” for all residents, more than justifying eliminating the off-duty program.

“The federal corruption probe impacted the entire city and was an embarrassment to all city residents on how police abused the system. Many were indicted and many more knew of the corruption,” she said in an email.

“We are going to be using best practices from other cities. There is no reason that NYC, with more residents and more development, can operate without requiring off-duty police but in Jersey City this is required.”

 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from city spokeswoman Ashley Manz.