The Hoboken City Council unanimously approved a three-year contract for Police Chief Ken Ferrante at its July 29 meeting.
Ferrante had been working without a contract since the end of 2019. He currently makes $201,075.
The new agreement provides a salary increase of $5,000 for each of the next two years; he will earn $206,075 in 2021 and $211,075 in 2022.
The new agreement provides for 30 vacation days.
“Under his leadership, the police department has taken major steps to keep Hoboken safe and increase the quality of life for all of our residents, and I have no doubt this progress will continue in the years to come,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
“I would like to thank Mayor @RaviBhalla, the @CityofHoboken Council & the City Administration for finally coming together to finalize my three yr contract extension … ,” tweeted Ferrante. “I look forward to continuing my 24/7 dedication to serving our City’s residents, and businesses, as well as serving the men and women of the @HobokenPD who have done tremendous work during a very difficult period in our history.”
Public back and forth
The new contract approval comes after the council proposed amendments on July 8, spurring arguments on social media primarily among the administration, Chief Ferrante, and Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.
During the July 8 meeting, Fisher introduced a resolution seconded by Councilman Ruben Ramos proposing amendments to the police chief’s contract, including five fewer vacation days and an earlier end date of Dec. 31 2021.
Fisher noted that while the city was battling a nearly $20 million budget gap and 10 percent increase in the municipal taxes, it was more fiscally responsible to determine the chief’s contract during the budgeting process. She held that it made more sense for the chief’s contract to be “co-terminus” with the mayor’s term.
Bhalla said he “strongly reject[ed] the proposal that law enforcement should have any connection with politics or elections” stating that it “unnecessarily politicizes the Chief’s contract,” noting that council approved the current Fire Chief’s contract which doesn’t expire until 2023.
“Disappointed that my colleagues felt it was necessary to renegotiate terms of @KenFerrante’s contract renewal – he deserves the contract presented,” Councilwoman Emily Jabbour tweeted. “No one is more prepared with data & facts to keep our city safe. Tying his term to Mayor falsely implies political bias.”
Ferrante tweeted that he “offered to not take my 2019 raise, offered to take $0 additional money in 2020, & some council members made my contract a spectacle w/ false statements & social media posts, & amended it to end next yr w/ 5 less vac days. Petty! I await their vote!”
He cited accomplishments during his tenure, including a double-digit decrease in crime in 2019, the department’s closure rate, the creation of identity theft detectives, his community involvement, and more.
Residents and retired officers joined the fray, thanking the chief for his service and voicing support for a contract renewal.
In an email to constituents before the final council vote, Fisher said she is supportive of the chief.
“The Council’s amendment to shorten the term of the contract was solely to coincide with the term of the mayor so that the next mayor, whether the same or new, can agree to the terms with Chief Ferrante for the next four years,” Fisher responded in an email to constituents. “The fact that the mayor’s office and certain of my council colleagues altered this truth was only done to politicize the situation at the expense of Chief Ferrante. I remain supportive of our Police Chief and hope he stays in Hoboken.”
Six years as chief
Ferrante has served as police chief since 2014.
During that time Hoboken has seen a reduction in almost all major crime categories. From 2018 to 2019, violent crime dropped by 34 percent, and non-violent crime by 22 percent, with robberies, rapes, and larceny all reduced by at least 20 percent, and no homicides, according to the city.
This year, Ferrante and the Hoboken Police Department met all eight “use of force” policies established by “8 can’t wait.” The department has not had a single civil suit or criminal complaint against any of the officers for excessive force for the past six years.
Ferrante created the waterfront and parks unit to better patrol and keep public spaces safe, established the Emergency Services Unit, and modernized and invested in the department’s investigations bureau.
According to the city, Ferrante has also been a partner with the administration and council on Vision Zero, increasing traffic detail and enforcement of traffic violations pertaining to pedestrian safety.
He recently adjusted patrols to address excessive fireworks and “has been our trusted partner throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, taking early precautions to keep officers safe from the virus and managing to maintain full staffing levels at all times,” according to the city.
Bhalla said that Ferrante increased the department’s transparency, posting on social media detailed explanations and updates on major issues pertaining to public safety.