Robert Antalos chose a tough week to be initiated into his new job.
The West New York native and former police captain won’t officially become the town’s new police director until Wednesday, but last week he was on the scene with his outgoing predecessor, Michael Indri, as federal agents and media outlets descended on a Buchanan Place apartment building where the sister of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers has lived for the past few months (see sidebar).
The media circus didn’t shake Antalos’ resolve to become West New York’s new top cop.
“These things come with the territory,” he said in an interview this week. “You're going to have that type of circus any time there’s an incident like this. It was terrible and tragic, but it ended up in West New York.”
Residents of the town can look forward to more of this matter-of-fact type attitude from Antalos, who was named the town’s new director by Mayor Felix Roque at a commissioners meeting last week. Antalos will replace Indri, who has held the position since July 2011 and presided over a 23 percent decrease in the town’s crime rate. Antalos said he had no major plans to shake up a department he said Indri had worked hard to stabilize and make effective.
“He’s an ethical, straight-arrow, no-nonsense guy.” – Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez
Antalos said that during his first weeks on the job, he will take a look at the crime statistics during past summers in West New York and decide whether to redeploy the force in a manner more befitting of the warmer months.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of officers on the street in the summer,” he said.
Many of those officers will be already familiar with Antalos, who spent 32 years in the Police Department and worked as one of the town’s court officers since his retirement in 2008. In the Police Department, Antalos was head of the Criminal Investigations Division. Many of his subordinates, he said, have since gone on to become captains of various divisions.
“It’s exciting to see that they’ve climbed the same ladder I did,” he said. “I hope I can make the job enjoyable for them, because that’s important. You can’t succeed at a job you don’t enjoy.”
Commissioner of Public Safety Caridad Rodriguez spoke highly of Antalos and said that she thought he will “do a fantastic job” of filling Indri’s shoes.
“Anytime you’ve got a guy who retired six years ago and stuck around all that time, it’s clear that he cares about the town,” said Rodriguez. “He’s an ethical, straight-arrow, no-nonsense guy.”
The commissioner said she and Antalos will be exploring new grants the town can apply for to improve the department’s facilities and equipment. She also mentioned Antalos’ plan to reorganize the force’s summer deployment, and noted that the department will be three officers stronger by that time.
She also praised Indri for his time as director, noting the decrease in the town’s crime rate during his tenure.
“He did very well for us,” she said. “He was very loyal to the town and always vigilant.”
Indri thinks town should have a chief
Indri said this week that he wished he could have stayed on a bit longer as director, but felt that the time was right for him to retire. Though he dispelled rumors that he and Roque were at odds over the management of the police force, he did hint that he had grown tired of the relationship he was forced to have with the administration.
“I realized it was time for me to go,” said Indri, who joined the force in 1986. “I was always a cop’s cop, but when you get to this point, you realize that you’ve got to walk a fine line between the officers and the administration.”
Indri said that he had always advocated for the separation of the administration and the Police Department, which could be done by dissolving the director position, and installing a standard chief of police. (Police director or public safety director is often a civilian job, someone who helps oversee the uniformed departments.)
“I always hoped that the town might have gone back to a system where they had a chief, but I guess it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “Regardless, I need to thank the mayor for the opportunity to do this job. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but he’s always had my support and that won’t stop.”
Indri said that in addition to bringing down the crime rate, he was also especially proud of negotating the signings of two police contracts, one for officers and another for supervisors; overseeing the founding of the town’s first Police Athletic League (which he will continue to manage) and initiating a security camera project that would see the installation of high-tech surveillance in some areas of town.
For now, Indri, 54, said he will focus on his family and himself.
“My family sacrificed a lot so that I could get to this point,” he said. “There were a lot of trips we never took because I was studying for promotions or had to work overtime, so I thank them for that, but I owe them time now.”
Still, he might not put down his badge forever.
“There are always new opportunities,” he said. “And my wife’s not going to let me sit around the house for long.”
Sister of alleged bombers speaks out
Ailina Tsarnaev, the sister of suspected Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, made her first formal statement on Tuesday since federal agents and national media outlets set up camp outside her West New York apartment building on Friday. Tuesday, she echoed the horror felt by most after hearing of the attacks, but said that neither she nor her sister Bella had any answers as to what drove their brothers to allegedly commit the atrocities.
“Our heart goes out the victims of last week’s bombing. It saddens us to see so many innocent people hurt after such a callous act,” read a statement released to the media on Tuesday. “As a family, we are absolutely devastated by the sense of loss and sorrow this has caused.”
The statement goes on to say that the sisters share in the confusion and grief of many Americans who are still wondering why the bombings took place.
“We don’t have any answers but we look forward to a thorough investigation and hope to learn more,” it reads.
Finally, the sisters asked the media, many of whom were still stationed outside the apartment building on Tuesday afternoon, to respect their privacy.
The sisters’ statement stands in contrast to some of the suspects’ other family members who have suggested that the Tsarnaev brothers were framed for the bombings.
The latest developments in the bombing story came on Monday afternoon, when the White House announced that Dzhokhar, 19, would be tried in criminal court. He was charged, from his hospital bed, with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and will make his first court appearance on May 30. Tamerlan, 26, was killed over the weekend in a gun battle with police. – Dean DeChiaro