City officials were responding to PBA leadership’s categorization of Public Safety Director James Shea as “an absent” director. The back-and-forth came up during an ongoing labor dispute between the police union and the city over a proposed new contract.
But the charge against Shea may also be the result of his decision, along with Mayor Steven Fulop’s, to suspend four officers without pay last June after a high-speed chase led to a fiery wreck and the beating of an innocent bystander.
The city eventually reversed itself to suspend the officers with pay, as required under their police contract.
The union is also concerned about the fact that the city has yet to name a new chief and has been operating under an acting chief for more than two years.
City officials claim the protest is more about the city’s restricting of compensation days and sick time for police officers.
City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill disputed union claims that crime stats are up. The Fulop administration continues to reduce crime with shootings and homicides down, she said, and noted that the administration has successfully negotiated new contracts with other city unions.
Responding to the claims by PBA President Carmine Disbrow that the department is flailing without a chief at the helm, Mayor Fulop said in a statement issued on Sept. 26 that data from the department shows crime is actually down during the period without a chief versus the same period in prior years.
“Director Shea and the police leadership and the men and women of the department have been continuing to reduce crime . ” – Mayor Steven Fulop
During the past four months when Director Shea has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department during the search for a new police chief, he said, there has been a noticeable decrease in shootings and homicides citywide.
During the summer of 2017, the city saw fewer homicides, and a total of 30 shooting incidents, Morrill said, while in 2016 there were nine homicides and 53 shootings, with generally higher numbers in the years before that.
“The fact is that crime is actually down during this time period,” said Mayor Fulop. “Director Shea and the police leadership and the men and women of the department have been continuing to reduce crime and the results speak to that success. We will continue to be thorough and diligent in our search for a new police chief, while working with the police department and the residents to continue to improve public safety.”
Disbrow has claimed that negotiations stalled after the administration took action against officers in June who were involved in a police pursuit being investigated by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. Those claims are false, Fulop said. Since the pursuit and crash, there have multiple days – some of them 16 hours long – of negotiations and arbitration between the city and the union and an independent arbitrator.
Since the last council meeting, the administration’s attorney has been in touch with the union attorneys twice and has made the last offer to them. They refused to respond, Fulop said. As recently as last week, the union’s attorney put in writing they would only entertain an offer that does not allow officers to utilize comp days at any time, despite any impact on public safety or overtime expenses.
“While the union may want to misrepresent the truth to play politics, the administration has an obligation to set the record straight on public safety and let residents know that we have been beyond diligent in protecting our neighborhoods,” said Fulop.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.