Bolstering the ranks
Correctional officers get specialized training
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Dec 05, 2012 | 5004 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MAKING THE GRADE – Freeholder Bill O'Dea raised questions about a proposed upgrade to a special unit at the Hudson County Correctional Facility could reduce risk.
MAKING THE GRADE – Freeholder Bill O'Dea raised questions about a proposed upgrade to a special unit at the Hudson County Correctional Facility could reduce risk.

In the past, when a prisoner acted up at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny, officers had to deal with it in mass, sometimes using nine or more people.

According to Jail Director Oscar Aviles, this posed a number of problems – including injury to the prisoner and officers.

To this end, three years ago, the county implemented a new program, sending a group of officers out to get specialized training that would not only allow the county to use less officers in critical situations, thus reducing injuries and accusations of use of excessive force, but also reducing the cost associated with insurance coverage.

In fact, those trained for dealing with such situations get additional coverage up to $2 million from the U.S. Corrections Special Operations Group, which provides the training.

The group not only trains the officers, but continues to serve as a consultant, providing evaluation, as well as technical and tactical safety advice.

Since its establishment in 2008, however, the force has been depleted through attrition, and Aviles said the department needs to send a new batch of officers to fill in those who have left.

While the $57,000 price tag for the additional training did not seem too steep to the freeholders when reviewing the proposal last month, the absence of 25 correctional and the overtime costs associated with covering their shifts while they are trained had some freeholders questioning what benefit the squad provided. Hudson County has the only county jail in the state with such a unit.

Aviles said the county needs about six new people for the squad and sends extra officers several times that to cover those who might drop out or those who fail. Many do not get through the entire six weeks of training and thus return to the workforce.

The company that provides the training gives legal and insurance coverage for the unit, reducing the county’s liability risk in critical situations. The officers are better trained in those specific techniques needed, and so it takes fewer officers and lowers the risk of excessive violence charges.

This squad is not only available for duty at the jail, but also to offer mutual aid to other law enforcement group in Hudson County and outside the county, Aviles said.

The squad deals with riot control, high risk security patrols, correctional hostage rescue and high risk inmate transport, and similar squads do operate out of all of the state prisons, Aviles said.

“I have reviewed the transcripts and now have even much more serious concerns about this project.” – Freeholder Bill O’Dea

Hoboken development a concern

Freeholder Bill O’Dea has raised concerns about the depth of a new residential development in Hoboken, asking for a review of the county Planning Board’s approval in wake of Hurricane Sandy’s flooding in that area.

The county gave approval earlier this year to Advance at Hoboken LLC for a project located at Willow and Clinton Streets for an easement that broached on the county-owned 14th Street Viaduct.

The firm proposed to construct 140 dwelling units in a new mixed-use seven-floor building plus a penthouse, including three to four levels of underground parking, with as well as 21,725 square feet of ground floor retail space.

“I have reviewed the transcripts and now have even much more serious concerns about this project,” said Freeholder O’Dea. “The project needs a higher level of quality in its construction and flooding. Back in 2010 there was a requirement of raising the site because of flooding in that area of Hoboken. Has the need for the site to be raised even higher due to flooding in 2011 and post-Sandy been analyzed yet? The project talks about going down four levels for parking. How might that impact future flooding, including the flooding of that underground facility?”

He continued, “The proximity of this structure to the 14th Street viaduct, where tens of millions of dollars are now being invested, raises a bigger concern also. The building will require piling – piles being driven in a close proximity to our viaduct. Has the planning board or planning staff considered and weighed in on these matters post-Sandy? The issue was certainly exacerbated by the recent super storm.”

The Freeholder Board is being asked to vote on the easement at its next meeting, and O’Dea said he wants to delay it until some of the questions are answered. He also wants more information about what the general contractor is being used for on the project and some record of the contractor’s experience in doing such project.

“Before we bring this to our committee and have the developer present, we need to have an internal discussion, as well as one with Hoboken, on these and other issues,” O’Dea said.

“If that means that we discuss this internally at the first meeting in December and then bring in the developer, assuming we address these threshold concerns, at the second meeting in December, so be it.”

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