In a room filled with his fellow police officers, friends, and family, Lt. John J. Cerny was sworn in as deputy chief by the Secaucus mayor and Town Council, making him second-in-command in the Police Department.
“I hope to make an impact as we work together as a team to protect and serve the town of Secaucus,” said Cerny during the council meeting on Oct. 9 as he took a moment to address his fellow police officers. “No matter what your rank is you will play an important role at this Police Department.” He added that he would always be fair and “promise not to forget where I came from.”
He also took a moment to thank Mayor Michael Gonnelli, the Town Council, his family and friends.
“Thank you for your support, understanding, and kindness not only with my police career but with raising a family together,” said Cerny to his wife Laurie who stood at his side along with their three children as he took his oath. He took a moment to address them as well.
“To my children Jill, Carolyn, and Jake…I thank you for your understanding especially when I have to miss a chorus concert, a soccer game or family event because of my work schedule. Even in those absences I’ll always be there for you.”
“I care about this town. I care about this Police Department. I won’t let you down.” – John Cerny
“Thanks for staying strong, hanging in there and I am grateful that you are here tonight,” Cerny told his father.
Police officers lined up the center aisle in the council room to congratulate Cerny one-by-one following the ceremony.
Dedication to Secaucus
“I care about this town. I care about this Police Department. I won’t let you down,” said Cerny. “Chief Corcoran, you will have my continued integrity.”
Cerny, 49, will earn $155,686 as second-in-command to Chief Dennis Corcoran in the police department. He steps in to a role left vacant after Stanley Rosanski – who had served in that position since 2006 – retired last year.
A lifelong resident and graduate of Secaucus High School, Cerny has been a police officer since 1988 and worked his way up the ranks, most recently serving as lieutenant of the Patrol and Records Division, a role he has held since 2006. He earned a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Administrative Science with a concentration in computer forensic security and global terrorism and a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Thomas Edison State College.
He has also received a number of graduate certificates in subjects such as cellular telephone forensics and electronic eavesdropping and wiretap detection, and developing online learning programs. He is currently enrolled in a senior management leadership program for police executives at Northwestern University.
“I can’t think of a better person to fill [this position] than John,” said Mayor Gonnelli. “I think you are going to do a wonderful job. I know you are not going to let us down.”
Evolving police department
Secaucus has 58 police officers. The mayor and council have hired a number of new probationary officers this year as part of an effort to bring the number up from 53 to 62 after multiple retirements.
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.
Councilman Gary Jeffas, Councilman James Clancy, and Police Chief Dennis Corcoran comprised the committee that recommended Cerny among the top five top candidates interviewed for that post, including two captains and three lieutenants.
“We have excellent policemen on the force,” said Jeffas. “It was an extremely difficult decision…so many of the people interviewed were all very qualified.”
Deputy Mayor John Bueckner said he had reservations about the position during the meeting.
“Since we created the position of deputy chief I have always had my concerns about that position…Not realizing whether or not the position is justified,” said Bueckner. He pointed out that although many people think the council members all vote the same, there was disagreement on the position itself. However, Bueckner voted in favor to appoint Cerny along with the rest of the council members.
“I hope you will allay any doubts I may have had over the years,” Bueckner said to Cerny.
Questioning the need for senior ranking officers is not new for Bueckner. In 2000 under former Mayor Dennis Elwell, Councilman Bueckner had questioned the move to add captains during a period of restructuring. Prior to Elwell, former Mayor Anthony Just had opposed promotions and the police department went without a captain for six years from 1994 to 2000 until the appointments of Richard Scalzo, John Buckley and Stanley Rozansky.
“I’m very thankful that he did vote along with us,” noted Gonnelli. He added that while he understood Bueckner’s hesitation “the committee felt that this position was important.”
The mayor and council have made a number of significant changes to the Police Department in the past year including new hires and changes to the promotions criteria.
They also eliminated the chief of detectives position in January, which was held by John Buckley, who returned to his previous rank as captain. The position was introduced by the council two years ago as second-in-command at the Police Department at a $149,000 base salary. Town Administrator David Drumeler said that the chief of detectives positions was limited in its scope.
“Having a deputy chief is a little broader than just having a chief of detectives,” said Drumeler about the distinction between the two roles. “Now you have a deputy chief that is in charge of the entire police force.”
Later in the meeting the mayor and Town Council approved a resolution to give police chief Dennis Corcoran a two percent non-union raise increasing his salary to $177,508. Drumeler indicated that the inclusion of the resolution during the same meeting as the swearing in of the new deputy chief was a result of a clerical error. He said that two council meetings prior, “[Corcoran] should have been included with the rest of the non-union employees. Just out of pure mistake he was omitted from that resolution.”
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.