Union City Chief of Police Brian Barrett announced his retirement from the force Friday, paving the way for Captain Richard Molinari, a 25-year department veteran, to assume the office on an interim basis.
Mayor Brian Stack had asked Barrett, 54, to step in as the city’s top cop following the departure of former chief Charles Everett in October 2011.
Barrett spent 15 months as chief and 31 years with the department in total. He was originally scheduled to retire in December 2011, but when Everett retired in October, Barrett accepted Stack’s request to step in as chief with the understanding that he would serve for one year.
At the time, Barrett said his first priority was restoring the department’s integrity. On Monday, his last day in office, he said he was confident the goal had been achieved.
“I was aware of the public’s perception about the department when I came on,” he said. “I think today I can say that we succeeded in restoring public confidence in the department.”
“I think today I can say that we succeeded in restoring public confidence in the department.” - outgoing Union City Police Chief Brian Barrett
“It’s really important that people realize we’re here to help them,” he said. “If we get a call, it may seem routine to us, but it may be the only time that person has ever had to call the police, so it’s important that we show the same attention on every public concern.”
Barrett said he spent much of his time in the past year responding to calls that were forwarded to him by the mayor.
“I think people are very satisfied when they get a call directly from the chief of police about something they’re concerned about,” he said. “And vice versa. I really enjoyed speaking to them.”
Stack thanked Barrett for his service in a press release, saying he was sad to see him go.
Crime down, morale up
Barrett noted that in 2012, robberies were down 11 percent, burglaries were down 15 percent, and thefts were down 19 percent. Furthermore, vehicle thefts were also down 19 percent.
“Pretty much across the board, crime went down double-digit percentages,” he said.
Barrett credited much of the decrease in crime to the diligence of his officers, calling the Detective Bureau especially “second to none.” However, he said he believed that the city’s restored confidence in his police force played a major role.
“Our calls were up,” he said. “We tried to encourage the attitude of ‘see something, say something,’ and I think that message really got out.”
Barrett also presided over policy shifts within the department, including a review of the off-duty detail system that was revealed as broken following Everett’s departure. Under Everett, superior officers who were already making high salaries were given plum off-duty assignments.
Throughout 2012, the system was changed so that details were awarded to officers regardless of rank.
“The way the system was, it was bad for morale throughout the department,” said Barrett. “People were abusing the system, because there was really no reason not to, and that was not good for morale.”
Barrett reinstated a disciplinary system he described as fair and transparent to deal with officers who had abused the system. Although he would not comment on how many officers were disciplined, he did say that those who were suspended were suspended without pay.
“To their credit, they didn’t challenge our ruling,” he said. “They accepted responsibility, which is again really important for morale.”
Barrett was also able to bolster the department’s ranks, hiring 10 new officers through the Rice Act, which allows municipalities to hire officers laid off by other departments. Furthermore, 20 other officers – who are in the academy and will be sworn in in June – were hired as a result of retirements and the use of confiscated drug money.
The new sheriff in town
Molinari, who assumed command of the department on Tuesday, was promoted to captain nine years ago, and since then has served in almost every division of the force. Most recently he was the head of the Professional Standards detail, which handles internal affairs investigations. He has also spent time as a supervisor in the patrol, detective, and support services divisions.
Asked if he was nervous about taking on the duties of chief, Molinari responded that he felt prepared.
“I feel comfortable with it because I’ve been involved almost everywhere in this department,” he said.
Molinari, who was born and raised in Union City, said his roots in the city would serve him well as chief.
“I always realized the importance of keeping my contacts here,” he said. “I understand the importance of community policing and I think I have a good relationship with our residents.”
Barrett expressed confidence in Molinari, calling him a very well-rounded officer.
“He knows the ins and outs of the department and he’s been almost everywhere,” he said. “He was an extreme help to me during my time as chief.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org