Monday, February 01, 2010

Officials Press for Police Demotions

In about an hour from now, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and City Council members will hold a press conference in support of Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig, who has proposed the demotion of three police captains to save money. The local Police Benevolent Association reacted with a vote of no confidence in Hellwig, who is also the director of Public Affairs & Safety.

Plaintalker has not reported on this issue, leaving it up to Mark Spivey, who will most likely attend the press conference a develop a story for the Courier News. But just to find out more about this concept, I called the state PBA. Everyone had left the office for a collective bargaining seminar in Atlantic City, so there was no one to comment. Next I called Plainfield PBA President Andre Crawford, who said demotions are within the administration's rights for financial reasons. But he said the union never advocates for anyone to be demoted.

Although it has not happened before in Plainfield to Crawford's knowledge, a Google search turned up several instances of police and fire demotions recently to save money, in cities including Hoboken and Edison.

The city is now in the third quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1 and budget amendments are up for discussion tonight. The City Council agenda-fixing session is 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

"My understanding is that the City Council wants instant savings," Crawford said.

The PBA just honored eight retirees and the city recently hired six new police recruits. Crawford pointed out that retirees may go out on terminal leave, using up vacation and sick days, so savings may not start for six months or so. Crawford said the union "voted as a body" to forego the six new hires, but the city hired the recruits anyway. Leaving the slots vacant could have poroduced about $240,000 in savings, he said.

Another factor affecting costs, he said, is the need for police officers to fill in on two vital functions, 9-1-1 and prisoner supervision, when civilian staffers are unavailable. The resultant overtime could be reduced, he said, if the city addressed the problem of understaffing in the civilian ranks.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am confused by Crawford and the PBA's stance here. They talk about needing more cops because of how dangerous the city would be without them, and then they decide to forego 6 new hires who would be on the streets protecting us in favor of some older, retirement age cops who are NOT on the streets, getting demotions? Help me to understand this. Why don't those cops retire? That would save more money than the new recruits! Is this really about them hanging around to add more money to their pensions. I mean these older police are not walking the streets.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for interviewing Crawford and thanks to Crawford for responding. Even if we assume that he's spinning to some degree it's refreshing to actually hear what a real person has to say rather than just endless speculation and rumor.

I thought it was odd when the 6 new recruits were appointed, complete with photo op. If resource allocation, aka the budget, is viewed as ongoing over a period of years, imagine how many millions of dollars those six will cost the city's taxpayers before they retire. It just seems unwise, nay dumb, to take on that obligation at this time.

Let me also highlight the fact the the state PBA were headed for a collective bargaining seminar. They're going to be tough, smart and organized in any negotiation. The city would be similarly smart to hire a consultant to even the playing field. Any money spent could be saved a dozen times over if the negotiations are kept from becoming too one-sided.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edison's new Mayor immediately demoted those members who were promoted by Choi on his way out. Its a money issue that we are all footing the bill for. Perhaps retirement is an issue we need to look at??

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plainfield Police do not give up ANYTHING! They are one of the reasons there was not consensus with the unions for give backs. It's always the lowest men/women on the totem pole that give and keep on giving. Why do you think they rushed that vote for no confidence soon as they heard they might be touched without them volunteering. What is the Mayor going to do now? She used them to win the first time. Oh that's right she's already in. Maybe she doesn't need them. The police department stabbed Mayor McWilliams in the back when he tried to include them in on the budget shaving.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The PMEA didn't just give. It was taken from them and it will probably be taken from them again.

8:32 PM  

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