Clifton NJ Police could add three lieutenants to cut overtime spending

CLIFTON – The city is looking to add three more police lieutenant positions to reduce the millions of dollars spent each year on overtime.

City council on Tuesday introduced the measure to broaden its organizational chart, which officials say should solve a perennial problem: payments of more than $ 1.3 million a year for police overtime.

The extra lieutenants are needed because the city needs a lieutenant to run each of its patrol shifts, and the shortfall means that a significant portion of annual overtime goes to the patrol lieutenants.

City manager Nick Villano cited an extreme example where in 2019 a lieutenant, now retired, racked up over $ 200,000 in overtime and earned almost $ 400,000 for the year.

“Everything is perfectly legal,” Villano said. “Still, it doesn’t look too good.”

Villano said the city has been looking at different ways to tackle the problem, including a multi-year proposal from the former police chief to add three sergeants.

It was time to tackle the problem, Villano said.

Opposition to change

Others, both inside and outside the department, have questioned the administration’s motives, saying the proposed change is intended, at least in part, to promote the favorites.

They note that the recent arbitration forces the department to go from three daily shifts to two 12-hour shifts by January 2023, meaning fewer lieutenants will be needed at this point.

“With the four [days] on, four [days] out of schedule, positions are not needed, “resident Joel Ruiz told” Especially the third position. ”

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Four or five patrol lieutenants will be needed to oversee the patrol division as it is reconfigured, department officials agreed. The department will have six lieutenants if the proposal is approved.

Another worry among police officers and residents is that the change in organizational chart is being put in place before the state publishes its new list of those who have passed the lieutenant exam, which was given in October.

“What I think is important to note is why now? Ruiz asked.

Clifton’s director of personnel Doug Johnson has confirmed that the city will soon get a new slate of candidates who passed the test in October. The state Civil Service Commission typically takes three to four months to provide the names of those who have passed the exam, Johnson said.

“A new list will be released any day, but most likely before March. So why not get the top ranked applicants? Ruiz asked.

The concern, said Ruiz and others in the department, is that Staff Sgt. Gary Passenti, who occupies the newly created post of Assistant to the Chief, will be given the post of Lieutenant. (The police department declined to provide a job description for the assistant chief role.)

Attempts to contact Passenti, who is a former director and board chairman of the Clifton Board of Education, and who also ran for the Passaic County Freeholders board, were unsuccessful.

Clifton Police Chief Thomas Rinaldi also declined to comment.

Villano defended both the movement and its timing. The city has in the past hesitated over the overtime problem and is finally addressing it, Villano said on Tuesday.

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While many police officers would only speak informally of their opposition to the new positions, those contacted said the city’s treatment of its patrollers left a lot to be desired.

They wondered why the city council is opening its scholarship to pay for the new positions, when the starting salary of the youngest members of the department lags behind other departments in Passaic County and the region.

Since 2013, PBA officials note that 96 officers have been hired and 50 have resigned, the majority to work for other departments. Eight left in 2021, PBA officials said.

“Since 2013, our department has lost experience and talent mainly because of the pay disparity, ”said PBA Local 36 President Tom Sucameli.

He said the county average for the first year (after police school) is $ 47,000 and that Clifton pays $ 38,390, the Passaic County average for the third year is $ 64,000 and Clifton is $ 46,921, the county average for the fifth year is $ 80,000 while Clifton is $ 57,053.

The average salary for a Passaic County police officer is $ 102,000 in grade eight, which Clifton police officers won’t earn until grade 12, Sucameli said.

“We will continue to bleed that same talent and experience until the issues are resolved,” he said.

Matt Fagan is a local reporter for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @fagan_nj

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