Sunday, July 27, 2014

Northfield Police Candidly Address Concerns About Deteriorating Conditions; PBA Members Requested to Appear at Tuesdays Council Meeting

Members of the Northfield Police Department have enlisted the help of their own Mainland PBA Local #77 to garner support in what is described as a deteriorating Police Department. 
The Police Department also addresses concerns regarding the current Mayor's decision to cancel National Night out. 
According to an email we obtained the Northfield Police Department has requested Ray Theriault, President of the Mainland PBA Local #77 to disseminate a letter to all members of the Local PBA. 

The email sent out on July 25, 2014 by Theriault requests that all members of the Local PBA attend the next Northfield Council Meeting on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. to show their support of the Northfield Police Department. 
The letter from the Northfield Police Department to all PBA Members is released below. 
Dear Mainland Local #77 Members, 
On behalf of the Northfield Police Department, we are disseminating this letter in an effort to keep you updated, informed and garner your support. Over the last several years the general morale of our police department has deteriorated as a result of a number of factors that have repeatedly been ignored. The police department has suffered debilitating reductions in manpower, equipment and the structural conditions of the police department itself."
Our general working conditions are horrendous:  Birds have infested inside the ceiling of the decaying building and have caused feathers and fecal droppings to fall to the floor inside the building daily. There are mold concerns within the ceiling and the walls because of poor plumbing conditions which have further left us with no hot water. The police department is riddled with bug and insect problems and the hired cleaning service is inadequate at best.
In addition to the health concerns associated with the cleanliness of the building, there are a number of safety concerns related to outdated vehicles and equipment. The computer system we rely on to perform necessary daily tasks is outdated beyond repair. Our once functioning jail cells have no operable surveillance cameras or audio recording systems. This poses a safety concern for the officers as well as any prisoners that may require temporary holding before one (1) of two (2) officers on duty can release or transport any detainees to jail. Our patrol vehicles are in terrible need of service and proper maintenance; some need to be replaced. We voiced our concerns to our now retired Chief and he failed to address them.

Our current highest ranking officer is one (1) Lieutenant who is on an extended military activation for a minimum of three years, and isn’t scheduled to return until May of 2017. This leaves us operating with minimal supervisory staff that is comprised of the rank of Sergeant. These Sergeants are now tasked with supervising the operations of the police department and handling decisions that were previously made by executive ranks of Lieutenant and Captain.

In 2006 the Northfield Police Department structure was twenty-five (25) police officers and the City has not hired since 2008. As of this date, the City employs nineteen (19) full time sworn Officers which equates to a twenty-four percent (24%) reduction in Officers. Due to such a reduction in numbers we operate at minimum manpower of two (2) officers on duty almost daily.

Our greatest concern at this time is that we do not have a full-time Chief of Police and there are confirmed reports that City Council is actively discussing the possibility of creating the shared rank of both Captain and Lieutenant. We have requested numerous times to meet with the Mayor and City Council Members to discuss our concerns but have been turned away to no avail.

We want to make it very clear that we have met with the current shared Chief of Linwood and Northfield, Colin Hickey, and he does seem to be receptive to addressing many of the issues we have concerns about however, he is also being met with resistance from City Council. We stood together for the first time in a long time to voice concerns to Mayor and City Council and they blatantly lied to us prior to the June 30, 2014 council meeting and voted to share the services of the Chief of Police for both agencies. Further, they ignored our request to delay such a vote until the matter could be looked into at length and went ahead with a split decision vote and the Mayor decided against the Police Department’s wishes to remain whole. The Mayor has since cancelled Northfield’s National Night Out, in what we believe is an attempt to make the police department look bad when we have no intention of not participating.
It is our hope that we will have your support throughout the process of bettering our police department.
The Mayor, Council President James Travagline and two (2) other members of council have placed a price tag on public safety by supporting shared services against the recommendations of the men and women of the Northfield Police Department and Chief Hickey. The lack of support from elected politicians whose primary function is the safety of the citizens has been absent for years.
Most notably, Northfield council president James Travagline does not have the best interest of the citizens and tax payers in Northfield. Mr. Travagline certainly is not required to sway any votes toward the benefit of the police department against his own beliefs, however ethically, he should abstain from any vote related to the structure, operation and funding of the City of Northfield Police Department. As the asset manager for over 450 members of Mainland PBA Local #77 in his private career, Mr. Travagline earns a portion of his living by investing large sums of police officer contributions. During the council meeting on June 30, 2014, Mr. Travagline voted against the police departments request to remain one police department dedicated specifically to the tax payers and residents of Northfield. Mr. Travagline knows as a politician the conflict at hand and should have recused himself from any issues involving members of Local 77. We believe this is not only an ethics violation but his vote would’ve been the deciding vote we needed.
Our strength lies within our unity in numbers and as such, we ask that you please come out to support the Northfield Police Department at the next council meeting, July 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm, 1600 N. Shore Rd., Northfield, NJ 08225.

Members of the Northfield Police Department


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