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: Teaneck will get its public safety director, following a closer-than-expected 4-3 vote by the council.
Councilwoman Monica Honis was apparently swayed by the nearly two dozen people who spoke out against the move, during a council meeting that was moved to the high school to accommodate nearly 400 who turned out for the vote.
As a result, retired chief Robert Wilson will become public safety director in January, with authority over both the police and fire departments.
Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie pledged to limit payments for unused sick days and vacation days. In turn, hundreds of public servants — including Wilson — put in their papers.
By law, Wilson cannot return as a civilian director or six months after his July 1 retirement date. So the council immediately hired him as deputy township manager under a six-month, $110,000-a-year contract, with full benefits.
They said they intend to sign Wilson as public safety director, possibly in connection with a merger with neighboring Bogota’s department, at the start of 2011.
Because they weren’t allowed to speak at a council meeting two weeks ago, members of the state Association of Chiefs of Police — the most vocal opponents of the move — conducted their own meeting Monday night, drawing 100 people (see below).
Councilman Elie Katz said town officials needed the new arrangement following a string of costly law suits involving administrators. The council can now hold the director of both the police and fire departments accountable, he said.
But what it might gain in fewer salaries it loses in experience, according to the police chiefs association.
“A police chief should be present at the scene of a serious crime to provide leadership and direction for the men and woman of the agency they lead,” said the organization’s vice president, South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka.
“If you have a serious crime such as a homicide or something of significance that impacts the community, the police chief needs to be visible,” Hayducka said. “A public safety director has no more rights at a crime scene than any other civilian. They are not permitted under the law to direct a criminal investigtion, so if they were to show up they would be required to stand behind the crime scene tape like any other observer.”
Monday, 27 September 2010 By Jerry DeMarco
Denied the opportunity to address the Teaneck council, the state Association of Chiefs of Police is conducting its own meeting in town tonight to discuss the hiring of retired Police Chief Robert Wilson to a civilian public safety director‘s post. CONTINUED….