Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Captain Shuns Demotion

Take a demotion at the pinnacle of his career?

Plainfield Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin says he will leave and retire immediately rather than have his rank reduced to lieutenant.

“I won’t take the demotion – I’m in a position where I don’t have to,” he said.

El-Amin is one of three captains targeted by the administration for demotions to save money in the FY 2010 budget, now in its third quarter of spending without final passage. He is on the verge of retirement after more than 29 years with the Plainfield Police Division and had planned to leave the post July 24 on final leave until coming off the payroll on Jan 24, 2011.

Rather than give up his title, he said, he will take a lump sum payout of $15,000 and be gone.

Of the other two captains slated for demotion, Captain Anthony Celentano is eligible for retirement but has not applied and Captain Michael Gilliam is a couple years shy of eligibility to retire, he said.

El-Amin believes the new money-saving ploy of demoting public safety staff came out of workshops at the League of Municipalities a couple of years ago. Each November, the League holds a convention with seminars and workshops on how to increase government effectiveness and cut costs. Police and fire budgets in many cities have been the elephants in the room at budget time for many years. Even though they tend to reflect the largest salary and wage expense, governing bodies have been loath to make cuts in public safety costs.

The idea of shaving costs through demotions may be especially unsettling. One of the attractions of a career in public safety is the ability to rise through the ranks and become chief someday.

“That is true,” El-Amin said – at least it was in Plainfield until discussions came up on how to get former Police Chief Edward Santiago to “retire, leave or whatever,” El-Amin said.

Starting in 2006, Santiago and new Public Affairs & Safety Director Martin Hellwig appeared increasingly at odds over management of the Police Division. Santiago was sitting in City Hall Library one night in the summer of 2007 when a slide on Hellwig’s Power Point presentation popped up the recommendation, “Eliminate the rank of chief of police.”

A 2008 layoff plan was aimed at just one person, Santiago, who then faced the choice of dismissal or being demoted to captain. Ironically, due to a lapse in non-union salaries keeping pace with union settlements, Santiago stayed on and ended up making more as a captain than as chief.
Meanwhile, demotions have caught on to the point where several New Jersey cities cited them this year as necessary to balance budgets.

El-Amin disputed the administration’s claim that demotion of three captains could save $400,000 or more in the FY 2010 budget year. Captain Keith Lattimore retired in December and the post will not be filled, he said, so there may already be savings for the year. But the difference between a captain’s salary and that of a lieutenant will yield maybe only $10,000 to $15,000 through the mid-year demotions, he said.

El-Amin, 64, joined the Plainfield Police Division in September 1980. He has been a captain since April 1999. During Mayor Mark Fury’s tenure, he served for a time in one of the same posts Hellwig currently holds, director of Public Affairs & Safety. A daughter, Mahasin, has followed him into law enforcement with the PPD and his wife, Faheemah, served on the Plainfield City Council. El-Amin has served in several capacities with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and is presently the organization’s Region One vice president, representing New Jersey, New York and six other Northeast states.

El-Amin sees many post-retirement opportunities for continued service in either the private or public law enforcement sector after leaving as captain. He still thinks the demotion tactic is a bad approach to solving local budget woes. Lacking a permanent chief, he said, the city has “no secure advocate” for police.

In recent days, Police Benevolent Association President Andre Crawford announced a union “vote of no confidence” in Hellwig. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and members of the City Council countered with a press conference Monday in support of Hellwig.

As for El-Amin, the fray will soon be behind him.
--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not particularly a fan of the high salaries of Police Captains but find the demotion of uniformed personnel absurd. It's hard to tell which end this Mayor is talking out of half the time. In one breath she finds the need to waste the need of uniformed personnel by having them assigned as her personal body guard, and in another agrees to demote personnel in ranks.

I am not going dispute whether there is a need for the number of Captains that Plainfield has but the proper and ethical way to achieve cost savings within the ranks would be through attrition.

Plainfield's budget problems did not just pop up overnight and this could have been planned for several years ago. I don't know the answer to this but when Chief Santiago was demoted to Captain, how many Captains were there? Was a new position created for another Captain title or did an existing Captain get demoted at that time or did there just happen to be vacancy.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

There were previously five bureaus and five captains. Two more were added during Hellwig's previous term as Police Director/director of Public Affairs & Safety.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mayor ran on making Plainfield safer. In that vein, I believe Hellwig has done a superb job of doing that. And, I believe he will continue doing a great job with however many police he has to work with.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its the police officers that made Plainfield Safer, not an appointed politician. When you call 911, see who shows up..a police officer or Hellwig.

12:09 PM  
Blogger olddoc said...

What was the criteria used to select the 3 captains for demotion? Performance or length in rank? This should be public knowledge.

El-Amin has in the past been a pawn in political matters in Plainfield, being promoted as the first civilian director of police over Chief Driscoll and the after a short time without explanation replaced and reinstated as a lieutenant in the force.

Adminmistratio has kn ow for years that the force was top heavy and iof any corrective action was required that should have been done 4 years ago not a s an economy matter.

On the other hand the city unions should not threaten to hold teh city hostage to their contracts and importance to public welfsre.

12:37 PM  
Blogger MichaelT said...

To olddoc: the first civilian director of police (and fire) was Charles Allen. El-Amin may have been the first non-civilian director of police and fire. Hellwig is the first director of police.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading all of the press that has been written pertaining to Director Hellwig is eye opening at best. I would like to know what initiatives led to the decrease in crime? Crime is down nationwide. Or the reduction in Homicide? Homicide can't be reduced by any police initiative. Is there a Captain on a night shift supervising anyone? Is the mobile cammand unit deterring crime? Is the traffic unit that he created handling all traffic matters to free up patrol units? Has he initiated any initiatives to combat what we see occuring within the areas of Plainfield that are hard hit by crime? Not reporting criminal activity to the press does not negate crime. I suggest that you visit some of the communities that you claim to be making safer.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to know how the captains to be demoted were chosen. Are they the last promoted? What happened to LIFO - Last In First Out? There is something to be said for experience and loyalty.

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing to be said for using demotions as a budget tool. We either need the captains or we don't. If we need them, then demotions are both bad for morale and operationally negligent. If we don't need them, then it speaks more to an abuse of taxpayer resources that is more widespread than the police department and makes one wonder how much deadweight the city is carrying elsewhere. Which is it?

Demotions are simply crude and tacky. Apparently titles and their associated salary bands are more important than functionality and efficiency.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To OldDoc

I respect your tenure as a resident of Plainfield and the history you bring to the blogs. However, in this case you got it wrong. If you did your research on me you would know I have never been a pawn to anyone, thus the short tenure as Public Safety Director. When I was appointed Director in 1994, John Dirscol was one of the Captains in the Division. During my tenure as Director, when John Waldron retired I recommend Capt. Driscoll as the next Chief of Police and the Mayor approved the appointment.

By the way I was not the "first civilian director of police." Mr. Charles Allen was the first under Mayor O'Keefe, followed by Leon Adams, Harold Gibson, myself, Michael Lattimore, Jiles Ship and Martin Hellwig. Please get it straight.

Captain El-Amin

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 1:38 AM

The Captains for proposed demotion are selected based on civil service standing (ranking), with those with the least civil servicce ranking chosen for demotion.

With the return to the rank of captain by Ed Santiago, the lowest ranking captains are El-Amin, Celenatano and Gilliam, in that order. To the point: the last promoted to the rank of Captain. Unfortunately, experience and loyalty don't count.

Captain El-Amin

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this talk about demotions of Police Captains is unsettling to many voters. The city has been giving several plans bypolice management that would save the city the same amout of money in the budget without demoting Captains. I know that if these demotions go into effect it would eliminate every African American in a Leadership position. The Leadership of the police division should reflect the community that it serves. Is that not the reason the the City council is made up of representatives from each ward. Each ward needs to have a voice. The minority citizens and officers need to have their voices heard also.

3:11 AM  

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