Published in the Star-Ledger, Friday , February 01, 2008
Superior Officers' move could bring demotions
Union has filed a lawsuit to reduce police director's powers in Newark
By JONATHAN SCHUPPE
The Newark police union trying to curtail Police Director Garry McCarthy's powers is also blocking his ability to issue promotions -- and may force him to demote three trusted captains.
The moves have frustrated McCarthy, who predicted that the consequences could be "enor mous" because he may not be able to continue reforming the troubled Newark Police Department.
"This is keeping us from moving the agency forward," McCarthy said yesterday. "If they have a plan, it's hard to see what it is."
The Superior Officers Association on Wednesday filed a lawsuit accusing McCarthy, a retired New York Police Department deputy commissioner, of going beyond the scope of his legal authority to oversee the force.
Citing a state law that gives the power over most day-to-day operations to the sworn police chief, the union asked a state Superior Court judge to bar McCarthy from run ning most aspects of the department. That would leave it to Chief Anthony Campos, with whom McCarthy has a strained relation ship.
On a separate front, the SOA unearthed a long-forgotten 1982 city ordinance that caps the number of people who can hold certain ranks. When McCarthy revealed his intention this month to promote more than two dozen officers to sergeant, the union pointed out the ordinance, forcing him to limit the sergeant promotions to five.
McCarthy also noticed that the ordinance limited the number of captains to 30 -- even though the force has 33. So now he is contem plating demoting three captains to the rank of lieutenant while he tries to persuade the city council to change the ordinance.
The SOA's two-pronged attack on McCarthy surprised many police brass because the union represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains -- and therefore doesn't appear to gain any obvious benefit.
The ranking officers also noted that the Newark Police Department has been running the same way for decades -- including several instances in recent years when the roster violated the 1982 ordi nance -- without any complaints from the SOA.
That has prompted speculation about the union's motives.
Daniel Zieser, president of the deputy chiefs association, accused the SOA of "throwing a stumbling block in our efforts to increase supervision" within the department by promoting more sergeants.
SOA President John Chrystal said he simply wants the department to be run according to law.
"There's no ulterior motive other than to right a wrong," Chrystal said. "I have nothing personal to gain from this. I just want the department to be run properly. We want our members to get promoted the right way."
Chrystal said the union found the ordinance about a year ago after seeing similar issues arise in other New Jersey towns. He filed a grievance this week with the state Public Employment Relations Commission, claiming McCarthy transferred a union member who brought up the ordinance in a discussion about the promotions.
The head of the union representing patrol officers declined to comment.
The three captains facing demo tion -- the last three to get promoted to that rank -- are Niles Wilson, currently serving as deputy director in charge of recruiting, discipline and community relations; Antonio Perez, commander of the second precinct; and Inez Gonza lez, commander of the communica tions bureau.
If demoted, Perez and possibly Gonzalez will have to be transferred, McCarthy said.
"We are examining with our legal counsel whether we will be forced to demote them," McCarthy said.
Councilman Ronald C. Rice said he and McCarthy have discussed the old ordinance and he agreed to review it and consider changes.
"If it's a concern for him it's a concern for me as well," Rice said. "I want him to be able to do his job for the citizens of Newark."
Jonathan Schuppe may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-7960.
Online story here. Archived here.
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- Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.