Changes at the top
Council moves to restructure police chain of command
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Sep 22, 2013 | 4517 views | 0 0 comments | 137 137 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ALTERED CHAIN OF COMMAND – The Town Council moved to set a new command structure for the Secaucus Police Department.
ALTERED CHAIN OF COMMAND – The Town Council moved to set a new command structure for the Secaucus Police Department.
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In an effort to spread out some of the responsibilities among ranking officers in the Secaucus Police Department, the Town Council introduced in August a plan that would modify the chain of command.

The ordinance, which would shift some responsibilities to the deputy police chief as well as other officers, will come for a public hearing at the Sept. 24 council meeting.

According to the ordinance, the Police Department can be comprised of one police chief, one deputy police chief, three captains, eight lieutenants, 15 sergeants and 50 police officers.

“This redistributes some of the responsibilities to various officers,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “This is mostly about structure.”

These changes are unrelated to a 2010 report issued involving minority hiring practices, although Gonnelli said the town has gone through an accreditation process and will likely adopt any recommended changes. This would lower the overall cost of insurance to the town.

The ordinance will adjust the police chain of command, Gonnelli said.

“The council police committee addressed some concerns and suggested improvements,” Gonnelli said. “This ordinance gives much broader powers to the deputy chief in helping the chief in day to day operations and training.”
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“This redistributes some of the responsibilities to various officers.” -- Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
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Gonnelli said the change may generate controversy, but there is no additional cost involved in it.

The loss of a number of superior officers due to retirement and other personnel issues has made a significant impact on the department in reducing overall costs – while allowing the town to increase the number of officers overall.

“Many of the highest paid people left,” he said. “This allowed us to increase the number of officers from a low of 49 to 61, and to promote people.”

He said he believed the department currently has a good ratio of superior officers to patrol officers, and this will result in more police on the street.

Chain of command

At the top of the chain of command according to the ordinance is the mayor and council, followed by “the Appropriate Authority” (a three-member committee that create and adopt rules and regulations for government the police), followed by the police chief, the deputy police chief, the captains, the lieutenants, the sergeants, the police officers and finally, special police officers. A table of organization usually sets the maximum figures for a department, and often police departments do not fill the total number, depending on budget constraints and public safety concerns.

The ordinance said that each member of the Police Department will be issued a copy of rules and regulations that are adopted by the Appropriate Authority and the officers will be bound to follow them or face disciplinary action.

Other council actions

At the Sept. 10 Town Council meeting, Councilman Gary Jeffas said Secaucus police, in conjunction with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, shut down a local spa business for alleged prostitution.

Jeffas said the matter will be brought up for a hearing shortly.

Three Secaucus-based massage parlors were closed last December for alleged fire and health code violations. In May, the Town Council amended the town code concerning where certain types of personal services businesses can be located. Listed in the ordinance were “hair salons, barber shops, tanning salons, beauty parlors, tattoo parlors, nail salons and massage parlors.” But according to Mayor Gonnelli, the changes were designed to limit the number of massage parlors.

Local officials said provocative advertising for massage parlors often raise suspicions that they might be offering services beyond just massage.

At the same council meeting Jeffas said the town is addressing traffic concerns near Clarendon School and trying to regulate some of the parking issues that the area faces during drop off and pick up in the morning and afternoon.

“People are not using the designated areas,” he said. “This has caused problems on Hudson Street and other parts of the neighborhood.”

He said the police have been directing traffic to proper parking areas.

Meanwhile, busing to the Secaucus High School/Middle School became a bit safer after the town came to an agreement with school officials to allow buses operated by the town to drop off their students near the buildings. Prior to this, town vehicles transporting students not covered by school busing were forced to stop outside school grounds, leaving students off on the street.

Other safety changes near the complex, Gonnelli said, included curb cuts for the disabled and additional changes to crosswalk areas.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, the City Council introduced a number of other ordinances related to illegal dumping, which has been a problem in various areas. Prior to this, the town was limited to imposing a $250 fine even for the most egregious act of dumping. The changes to the ordinance would allow the town to impose fines from $200 to $10,000, depending on the seriousness of the dumping and at the discretion of the judge.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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