The Secaucus mayor and council held a special meeting July 31 to discuss the promotional policy for police officers seeking to become sergeant or lieutenant. They also discussed the candidates interviewed for the vacant deputy chief position.
The discussions came as part of an effort to update a promotional policy that hasn’t changed in more than four years and to also eliminate some of the more subjective criteria in the performance evaluation component.
The mayor and council have made a number of significant changes to the Police Department, most notably the elimination of the chief of detectives position in January. The second-in-command will now be the deputy police chief. Stanley Rosanski had served as deputy police chief since 2006 before retiring last year.
According to a local ordinance the deputy police chief assists the police chief in management and discipline of the Police Department and manages the Officer Patrol Division, in addition to a number of other duties as set forth by the chief.
“One point in the police test means a lot.” – Mayor Michael Gonnelli
“We have not made the decision on whether we are going to fill it yet,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
The last time the department saw major promotions was in 2006 under former Mayor Dennis Elwell. Six officers were promoted to sergeant, five were promoted to lieutenant, and Rosanski was promoted to serve as deputy police chief.
The municipality has had a total of 11 recent retirements, which has left the Police Department with fewer superior officers.
“I don’t think this administration is looking to be top heavy,” said Corcoran. He added that some of those promoted in 2006 were among those who recently retired.
The town also discussed changing the procedures for promotion for officers eligible for the rank of sergeant.
“The overall goal is to…have a clear definition as to the promotion standards, [and] testing,” said Jeffas.
According to the existing ordinance, promotions to the rank of sergeant are made from within among individuals who have served at least four years. To be eligible for lieutenant or captain, existing sergeants must have served in that role at least one year.
Of the 58 officers on the force, approximately 42 officers are eligible for promotion, according to chief Corcoran.
The current ordinance indicates that any officer eligible for promotion will be given a written examination performed by a third party, a performance evaluation, and an oral examination. The length of service in the department is also taken into consideration.
According to the new recommendations, which have not yet been approved, the written examination would be worth 50 points and the oral examination would be worth 30 points. Officers can get up to five additional points based on their length of service.
Points would be deducted for absenteeism and disciplinary action. For three full calendar years before the date of the written exam, each sick day taken in excess of 10 days per year would result in a one-point deduction for a maximum of five points. For each suspension served by the officer during the past five years, one point would be deducted for a maximum of five.
Corcoran proposed a number of suggestions to eliminate some of the criteria within the performance evaluation to make promotions less subjective. The performance evaluation measures 10 areas including attendance, leadership, productivity, attitude and judgment. Of the 10 measurements, Corcoran proposed eliminating all but two – disciplinary action and attendance.
“Sick time is not subjective…you are here or you are not here,” said Corcoran. He said the same in regard to disciplinary action. “You had a suspension or not.”
Gonnelli disagreed with docking points for sick time. He noted that some officers would get discouraged from taking the written test because they already knew they would lose points for having taken extended sick leave.
“Everyone should have a fair shot at the written test,” said Gonnelli. “One point on the police test means a lot.”
Councilwoman Susan Pirro also felt that absenteeism should not result in point deductions.
“You can’t penalize someone for taking days they are entitled to,” said Pirro. She said that there were a multitude of reasons that an officer may have for taking time off such as an ill child, spouse, mother, or father.
Gonnelli also wants the police chief and a committee selected by the council to conduct performance evaluations instead of the police chief and two superior officers selected by the chief, as is the current policy.
The mayor and council also considered giving veterans preferential treatment in case of a tie, and giving combat veterans an extra point toward their overall score.
Corcoran made it clear that nothing has been finalized in regard to the promotions process.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.