PATERSON, NJ- In an overwhelming show of support for his record of, and platform to continue, educating the residents of Passaic County about what their job truly entails, and the service they provide to the community, Det/Cpl John Welsh ran unopposed and will move on to serve his second term as President of PBA Local 197
As head of the nearly 350 member strong union that represents Passaic County corrections officers, the 22-year veteran of the department knows the ins and outs of the business and is now focused on setting in motion a more concerted effort to change the public’s belief that as long as they stay out of jail they will never run in to a corrections officer.
Because corrections officers do spend a large majority of their time locked inside the jail, Welsh told TAPinto Paterson, they don’t “have the same opportunity to interact with the public” on a regular basis, keeping their visibility low.
While the majority of members are employed in the Passaic County Jail, the workers fall under the umbrella of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, and include a number of teams that often function as the last line of defense in some of the most pressing emergencies in the county.
“The vast majority of our county specialty units are made up of corrections officers,” says Welsh. That includes the canine division, bomb squad, SWAT, scuba team, mounted team, and the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), among others.
Welsh believes that building good will is a vital component of their efforts, which is why the union runs or participates in a wide variety of charity programs throughout the community. For nine years, they have organized a toy drive providing 400 toys each to several local schools; participate annually in “No Shave November” where members pay $75 each to grow facial hair, leading to the donation of an average of $7,500 divided between three local families fighting financial hardship due to a cancer; earlier this year assisted with the relief effort in Puerto Rico the led to the collection of a trailer and a half of water, food, clothing, generators, diapers, and other vital supplies to the story ravaged island; and are planning for their fourth “tricky tray day” an event they believe will once again raise at least $20,000 for local community efforts such as the donation of school supplies for kids in need.
Working alongside the Superior Officers Association (SOA), their sister union that represents the more senior corrections officers , Welsh also commended the Training Division which, he said, continues to expand its officer training program. With law enforcement tactics constantly changing, it is important, he continued, that his members and the union stays at the forefront of continued education.
“Our training has improved tremendously over the last 22 years.”
Members are encouraged to continue to find ways to “improve the system” said Rick Rosario who heads up the SOA. Referring to the penal system as a “revolving door” he said that the Local also works closely with the County Administration to implement new initiatives to improve the management and day to day operations of the jail.
In terms of traditional union activities such as bargaining and negotiations, Welsh believes that Local 197 is “in a good place.” He credits that to a strong relationship with Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik who oversees the jail.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been treated fairly by Sheriff Berdnik, though we do have a couple of goals that we’re looking forward to in 2019,” said Welsh speaking about upcoming contract negotiations and his hope that they can secure relief from Chapter 78, state legislation signed into law by Governor Chris Christie which has allowed medical costs for law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, and other employees to outpace salary increases.
In the coming months the public can expect to see even more community outreach including a revamped Facebook page, increased charity efforts, and a monthly newsletter.
“Its very hard for (the public) to reach us because we’re behind concrete walls, so we’re going out to them,” Rosario said of his and Welsh’s joint efforts.
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