HOBOKEN, NJ - Sticking to the script of Hoboken's current municipal operations, contract discussions for Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante appear to have taken on a political scope. While the Bhalla Administration supports a three-year contract, discussions by the City Council favor a shorter two-year deal, citing budget concerns and long-term mayoral discretion.

Ferrante took the reins in 2014, has been working without an agreement since December 31, and is seeking renewal through 2022.

"In October of 2014, I agreed to my first contract as Chief which was a five-year contract. I agreed to terms with the City Administration for a follow-up three-year contract in January of 2020. I was contractually due a raise on December 1, 2019 which I did not take due to ongoing negotiations. I also presented an offer of taking $0 in 2020 due to the city's financial crisis. It needs to be noted that during my six-year tenure so far, our police department has not paid a dollar in any civil liability,” said Ferrante.

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Highlighting recent achievements of the Department, Ferrante said, “In 2019, we had a double-digit decrease in every crime category except homicide which remained stable at zero. We also took proactive measures due to COVID before anyone else, which kept our total sick number of officers to only three, which is a remarkably low number. We also handled a 10,000-person protest with precision ensuring a peaceful day without incident. We then were one of the first departments nationally to come up with a plan to combat the middle of the night firework phenomenon. I also made sure during my tenure that we were the most transparent that we could be in dealing with the media and being active on social media which helped build community and media trust.”

The Chief currently earns $201,075 annually—less than a number of other Hudson County Police Chiefs. He would potentially receive a $5,000 raise next year, but City Council members balked at the initial approval of a three-year deal, citing overarching budget concerns.

Among those scrutinizing the contract is 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who couldn't be reached for comment. However, she recently took to social media to say, “I won’t speak specif[ically] for my colleagues, but broadly we felt it was bad timing—the day budget was introduced during the biggest fiscal crisis for Hoboken since the state monitor, voting on a contract when all our public employees have been out of contract for multiple yrs and amidst a highly political environment that is questioning funding of the nation’s police department.”

Fisher added, “For clarity I am not supportive of defunding @HobokenPD. With all of this Chief Ferrante was asked if we could delay the vote till after budget. And he said no.”

City of Hoboken Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri tells TAPinto Hoboken, “Over the past 6 years, the Hoboken Police Department has been a model for modern policing under Chief Ferrante. Under his leadership, Hoboken has seen a substantial reduction in crime in virtually all categories, expanded community policing and outreach, had no complaints against officers for excessive force, met all criteria regarding eight “use of force” policies, modernized the investigations bureau, vastly increased transparency in the department, created a waterfront and parks deployment, allocated additional officers and enforcement for Hoboken’s Vision Zero campaign, and most recently, has helped keep residents safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The long list of accomplishments speaks to the Chief’s dedication to his City and profession, and Hoboken is fortunate to have him at the head of the department.”

While Fisher maintains that Ferrante is one of the best assets for Hoboken,” she recommended a term of two years, “because the next mayor—whether current or new—should get to have the opportunity to bring to the discussions with our police chief what his/her priorities are & what he/she believes are the concerns of Hoboken citizens.”

Chaudhuri says, “The Mayor categorically rejects the resolution introduced by Councilwoman Fisher… to reduce the Chief’s contract from three years to two, with the Councilwoman stating on the record her wish to terminate the contract with the conclusion of the term of the Mayor, despite voting with the Council to extend the current Fire Chief’s contract through 2023. Mayor Bhalla believes this inappropriately politicizes the position of Police Chief, which should have no connection to elections or politics.” He adds, “Instead, Mayor Bhalla believes the Chief’s record on behalf of the department should speak for itself, and is hopeful that the Council will unanimously approve the full three-year contract as originally proposed.”

UPDATE: Councilwoman Fisher responds to Spokesman Chaudhuri's comment, saying, "What else is new…Vijay Chaudhuri lies to the public.  Let me be very clear - I have never said I wanted to terminate Chief Ferrante’s contract.  He is incredibly important to the City of Hoboken and I am appreciative of his leadership and all he has done for our City.  It is wholly unacceptable that the City’s spokesperson in his official capacity continues to spread lies about Hoboken elected officials when they oppose the mayor’s position, and is clearly a conflict of interest given he is also paid by the mayor as his political consultant.  If the mayor wants to attack elected officials, let him do it on his own time and his own dime." 

Just yesterday, Ferrante announced that Hoboken Detectives and Officers, “closed by arrest 144 cases of 466 reported crimes, for an outstanding 30.9% closure rate, beating the state average in all 8 categories” over the fist half of 2020.

“It appears to me that some elected officials in Hoboken, based on comments made at the City Council meeting, want to go in a different direction regarding the Chief of Police position in the near future. This, after giving access and responsiveness to all elected officials in Hoboken 24/7, for the past eight years, six as Chief and two as OEM. Right now, I am currently considering my options."

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