Pumping up the force

New police officers sworn in

In a move intended to increase the number of police on the streets, Mayor Steven M. Fulop swore in 32 new police officers on June 5. This brings the total number of officers to 816, of which 122 have been hired since Fulop took office in July 2103.
According to Public Safety Director James Shea, the department has 17 more cadets currently in the police academy due to graduate in the fall. The city expects to send 40 more by the end of 2015, and possibly another 40 at the beginning of 2016.
Shea said he would like to see a total force of about 900.
The officers sworn in on June 5 include 26 new cops of minority origin: three Asian males, six African-American males, one African-American female, 12 Latinos and four Latinas.
“Not only have we hired more officers, but we have also reassigned officers from desk positions to street patrol to best utilize our resources and personnel,” said Fulop. “While we are making progress, we recognize that more needs to be done. That is why we will continue to hire officers, with an additional 40 police officers expected to enter the police academy later this fall and another class in early 2016.”

Goal: a safer city

When Fulop took office, there were 779 officers in the department. Using grants and capital funds, the mayor said his administration is committed to expanding the department. The safest big city in New Jersey, crime statistics for Jersey City have significantly declined since Fulop took office, and the administration is continuing to implement strategies to reduce crime even further.
Under Fulop, a new table of organization for the Police Department was also created, the first such reorganization of its kind in 20 years. The new table of organization assigns new officers to street level units, increases training for new officers, establishes a better chain of command and structure for the department, as well as increased accountability.

“Not only have we hired more officers, but we have also reassigned officers from desk positions to street patrol to best utilize our resources and personnel.” – Mayor Steven Fulop.
“As pastor of one of the largest and most active Baptist churches in Jersey City, I’m so proud of what our mayor is doing by hiring more police,” said Rev. John H. McReynolds, pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church on Arlington Avenue. “I’m going to work with the mayor, the chief of police and the mothers and fathers of young people in this city and do whatever I can to continue to make Jersey City safer.”

Getting to know the city

All the police officers sworn in will be assigned directly to street patrol. Residents in several parts of the city have complained about shootings and other problems. In early June, the city saw two murders within eight days, one of which included the son of the city’s fire chief.
The city also saw a rash of muggings over the last few weeks, generating concern among a number of residents who are pressing for more police presence on the street.
Shea said the new police officers will rotate through all four precincts in the city for three-month assignments to gain an understanding of the unique issues facing each community.
“The rotation assignments were a significant training change implemented by Police Chief Philip Zacche to better prepare our officers,” said Shea. “This way, the new recruits will learn about all of Jersey City and get exposed to all four precincts. It educates them to each community, so they become more well-rounded officers.”
The new officers represent an array of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Filipino, Guyanese, Haitian, Cuban, Polish, Italian, African and Guatemalan cultures. With the swearing in of today’s new class, languages spoken within the JCPD include English, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Urdu, Creole, Polish, Swahili, Bengali and Vietnamese.
“We’re actively working to recruit more African-American police officers, and police officers of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” said Zacche. “We want our new officers to reflect the community they serve. We believe that a more diverse police force is a better police force.”

Recruiting people of color

Shortly after taking office in July 2013, Fulop held a police diversity recruitment seminar at City Hall that drew hundreds of residents. Fulop also expanded the Police Diversity Recruitment initiative in October, using a Marine Corps model that operates in the community to work with interested applicants throughout the process, encouraging them and providing necessary resources such as academic and physical training. The new recruitment office, which now has two full-time officers assigned, is strategically located at the HUB on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.
“These are very qualified police officers,” Shea said. “They are good role models for the community.”
“Having a more diverse police force builds relationships within different communities and having police officers from other backgrounds and religions gives police a better understanding of other cultures,” said Ahmed Shedeed, president of the Jersey City Islamic Center. “Making the department more diverse is something we’ve been advocates of for a long time and are glad to see Mayor Fulop has made this a priority.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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