PATERSON, NJ – The city’s public safety problems boiled over in 2011. More crimes were reported in Paterson last year than in any of the previous seven years. The number of non-fatal shootings doubled. Layoffs reduced the ranks of the police department by about 25 percent.
In marches, in prayer services and in their comments at community meetings, Patersonians have demanded a safer city. What will the candidates in the May 8 City Council elections do to improve public safety? PatersonPress.com poses several questions to the candidates on this issue.
Over the next eight days, PatersonPress.com will post separate stories on the responses provided by the candidates in each race. Today, we start with the citywide At-Large contest, in which Frank Filippelli, Kenneth McDaniel and Flavio Rivera are vying for one seat.
PatersonPress.com: What qualifications or qualities should Paterson's next police chief have? Explain.
Frank Filippelli: First of all, he must be well-liked and respected by the men and women that he will be commanding. If people don’t respect their boss they are not going to work to the best of their ability and this can cause great animosity and low morale in the department. I believe he should be labeled by his peers as a “COP’S, COP.” It helps if like me, he was born, raised and lives in our city. Then he will have an understanding of the different cultures and neighborhoods throughout Paterson. I would like to see someone with a proactive approach. Someone who has vision and can work with the administration as well as the city council and community based organizations. Having exceptional knowledge of law and management is a MUST.
Kenneth McDaniel: Here are some of the qualifications and qualities that I recommend that we look for in our next Police Chief:
- A Bachelor’s degree (Master’s Degree Preferred) in Police Administration, Criminal Justice, Public Administration, or related fields of study. Other professional, academic achievement and /or experience, including advanced certifications may be substituted for higher level degrees.
- Graduation from an academy or institute dedicated to police administration.
- A minimum of ten years of progressively responsible police administration experience in a department of a similar population make-up, comparable size, similar budget, etc…
- At least five years of service in a command or supervisory capacity.
- Must be familiar with New Jersey Law and eligible for licensure within the State of New Jersey.
- Must meet all basic requirements for the position of Law Enforcement Officer, including but not limited to age requirements, criminal background check, psychological exam, etc…
- Possesses and exhibits good moral character.
- Ability to manage, influence and lead members of the Department at all levels of employment.
- Positive track record with community relations, community engagement, employee supervision, employee relations, management, fiscal responsibility, progressive officer training, grant acquisition, participation in state-wide / nationally recognized initiatives, etc…
- Clearly communicates a clear and positive outlook/vision for the City of Paterson with regard to public safety.
- Pluses (qualities that would be appealing to me)
- Resides in the City of Paterson
- Familiarity with the City of Paterson, its streets, its population, its government, its faith-based community, its public school system, its crime trends/statistics, its resources, its strengths, its weaknesses, etc…
- Active participation in community activities
- Commitment to the overall success of the City
The qualifications and qualities I listed above are what I believe a true Public Safety and Community Leader should possess and/or aspire to attain/achieve in his/her career as the highest ranking Law Enforcement Official in the City of Paterson. These are the qualifications and qualities that will undoubtedly be beneficial to the successful candidate as he/she carries out the duties and responsibilities of the difficult, challenging and hopefully rewarding post as Chief of Police in the City of Paterson, New Jersey.
Flavio Rivera: I believe the next police chief should have a vested interest in our community. We need a qualify officer who resides in Paterson and understands the needs of our community. The right candidate should have a lengthy service record, experience in a supervisory role and the required education to serve our residents with respect. The next chief needs to understand our fiscal situation, the resources currently available to fulfill the job requirements and most important of all he/she must lead by example.
PatersonPress.com: Who among the city's current high-ranking officers do you consider best qualified to become the chief? Why?
Kenneth McDaniel: For several reasons, I have reservations about responding to this question via this type of outlet. In my humble estimation and opinion, this question assumes that the candidate is in a position to have accurate, reliable and reasonably impartial first-hand knowledge about the City’s entire roster current high-ranking officers. At best, I think the question backs the candidate into a corner of his/her own biases based on limited information, information that we may not be privy to from our current, respective vantage points. In my humble judgment, this is not fair to the candidates who are not currently on the council, nor is it fair to the current high-ranking officers who may be seeking the position of Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Great City of Paterson. Although it is campaign season and tough questions are commonly asked of candidates seeking office, for the reasons listed above, I respectfully decline to answer this question. I believe such matters should be discussed at the appropriate time and place, with all of the appropriate data available for review before one is ask to draw a conclusion and publicly provide a response on such a significant issue.
This is an extremely specific and targeted personnel matter. The high ranking aspirants are not yet Directors. I do not believe these specific employees should be discussed by Council Candidates in a news article. I believe the responsible thing to do here is decline to answer.
Flavio Rivera: It would be irresponsible of me to name one high-ranking officer as best qualified to become our chief of police. In order for me to make that assessment I would like to hear how the potential candidates plan to improve quality of life in our city using the resources available. I am sure that we have several high ranking officials that may be qualified to serve at this capacity but we need the best. As a community we need to do the same when voting for our elected officials. We need and deserve the best!
Frank Filippelli: Since I am not an officer and have not had the privilege of personally meeting any of the officers up for the promotion, I have an overwhelming respect and confidence that the Paterson police department has officers that fit my above description.
PatersonPress.com: Is Paterson's crime problem the result of the quality of the police work being done in the city or the quantity of police officers? Please expound.
Flavio Rivera: It is unfair to put the blame of Paterson’s crime problem solely on the quality of the police work being done or on the quantity of police officers available. There are other factors that have an effect on crime but we as a city should not accept what is going on. As a resident I believe that we need aggressive policing on our streets without being abusive. I also know that in order to run an effective police department we need to have the resources available to make sure that our laws are being enforced. We need to make sure that our administration and council identify and reallocate some of our resources to bring back some of our police officers. Yes we need more police officers on the streets because we need to have police presence in our neighborhoods but most important we need the police to be responsive when our residents call. We continue to see tax increases and reduction of services. We deserve the same level of services that our neighboring towns provide their residents.
Frank Filippelli: I have the utmost respect for ALL Paterson police officers. This is a tough city to be employed as a police officer. Of course we need our 125 police officers back, as well as an additional force to bring our department to the 520 members it should be. I am also a realist, and even with 1000 police officers on the job without the right leadership, management and vision you will still have an ineffective police department. Not only has the manpower been downsized but many VERY important units have suffered severely, such as Warrant squad, Narcotic and gang units.
Kenneth McDaniel: This is a great question. However, it is also the preverbal “chicken or the egg” question. If you are not looking at specific data, research and analysis, you are merely offering an opinion that may or may not offer valid insight on the subject at hand. I believe it is irresponsible to postulate, hypothesize and simply assume when people look to you as a leader. I have learned, often times the hard way, that as a leader my words have an impact on the way others view issues. Thus, I will offer a general assessment of the overall situation.
- Quality of police work in Paterson:
Although we have been faced with numerous challenges over the past few years, we continue to receive top notch services from the men and women of our Police Department. With limited resources and increasing rates of criminal activity, our men and women perform at high levels day in and day out. Is there room for improvement? Of course there is. I am interested in hearing from the Department’s Administration as well as the rank and file men and women on the job about the major issues that will help City Officials learn how we can do a better job with what we have as we actively strive to acquire what we need and want.
- Quantity of police officers:
I have not run into nor have I heard about anyone or group in Paterson who suggests that less is more when it comes to police in Paterson. It seems to be a general consensus that we should look to increase our police force, if not reinstate the full complement of officers that were laid off due to pressure from the State.
Quality and Quantity are not the only two variables that affect issues related to public safety. Shift/tour schedules, morale, training, knowledge of the job, allocated resources, optimism of the leadership, officer deployment and other issues play major roles in the creation and sustainability of effective and proactive policing.
PatersonPress.com: What changes - if any - do you think should be made in the operation of the police department?
Frank Filippelli: Again I have to say I respect and commend the men and women on our police department and being a union member myself I understand how jobs with chain of command work. How the average citizen might see and interpret the action of an officer as being unresponsive or worst yet, even lazy. I would love to see a very aggressive proactive community police department. Where they find the time to help educate and interact with the communities that they work within. I am not a fan of the slogan on the side of the cars that states “Protect and SERVE” I believe they should read “Protect and HELP”. No one wants to be a servant; I think subliminally it gives the wrong message to the community. We need a chief that will dig deep and find new techniques that will help change the perception of our great police department. We need a chief that will push for more public involvement and better training on being impartial and Courteous. But even then people need to understand we are all still human and even the best trained and most understanding person loses there cool once and a while.
Kenneth McDaniel: I am not prepared to promote this as a change at this particular time. At some point in time, after additional investigation and review, I will share specific and detailed information regarding this potential recommendation for improvement. I am very interested in learning more about Officer Deployment as a strategy for addressing crime in Paterson. This deals with how we utilize the officers that we have at any given time.
- Who is training the newer officers?
- Who partners with whom?
- What events are considered priority?
- How are officers dispatched?
- How do we treat areas known to be hotspots?
- Are there any non-law enforcement functions, duties, and roles that are currently being performed by actual police officers when these duties can be assumed and performed by civilian members of the workforce?
Flavio Rivera: One change that I feel needs to be made to the operations of the police department is to stop using police officers as crossing guards. We need those police hours being use to fight crime and improve quality of life. This change needs to come from the administration of the city. We need to use our resources more efficiently!
PatersonPress.com: What should city government do in terms of public policy to address Paterson's crime problem?
Kenneth McDaniel: I believe we should use a comprehensive approach that simultaneously attacks multiple areas of concern, including but not limited to education, social services and enforcement.
Partnering with schools in an effort to promote good citizenship among school children and to foster lasting positive relationships with police will go a long way in helping to reduce and/or change the attitudes that lead to criminal behavior. Educating young people today helps to ensure that they won’t become problems for themselves and others tomorrow. When you do the math on paper, you will find that and financial and/or time investment spent in properly educating our citizens is always less than the price we will have to pay after being victimized by wrongdoers, then processing them through the Criminal Justice System and possibly warehousing them through the prison industry; not to mention recidivism and related burdens associated with the vicious cycle of mis-education, under-employment, crime and prison. I am not sure at this precise moment how to specifically write this into public policy. However, understanding that public policy should speak to these concerns is the first step toward such policies coming to fruition.
The local government should also survey its citizenry in an effort to identify, adequately fund and implement the types of social programs deemed to be most beneficial to its population. When the City is unable to fully fund the programs it requires and/or desires, the City may be in a unique position to suggest, recommend and promote the implementation of such programs through its partners who are able to offer these programs. Examples of such services might include but are not limited to job readiness/preparedness seminars, municipal government workshops that teach regular citizens how to propose resolutions and ordinances, conversational Spanish instruction taught to non-Spanish speakers at the Board of Education or Community College level, offering a resource guide outlining the services offered in the City, training for auxiliary police positions, etc…
The government should mandate that the appropriate offices develop the necessary assessment tools that help to uncover vital information that will be utilized in the process of planning for, budgeting for, and delivering the services deemed to be beneficial to the citizens of Paterson.
Know that I included non-criminal related activities in my response because I feel that crime and related problems have to be addressed from various aspects. Enforcement alone will not adequately address the complex, social, spiritual, financial and mental, and/or medical issues that contribute to our crime problem in the City of Paterson.
Flavio Rivera: The question is, What should city government do in terms of public policy to address Paterson's crime problem? We already have many public policies in place that have not been enforced in years. We definitely need to increase our police force gradually in an effort to bring back our investigative units. We have been reacting to crime instead of preventing crime.
Frank Filippelli: I believe that Paterson has enough laws and ordinances on the books to start transforming our city back to its potential. It is not just up to our police and city workers to make Paterson a better place to live. It is up to the law abiding citizens to get involved and help set the tone that we want our city to be like. We need to help officials enforce SIMPLE quality of life issues, which to me are at the root of ALL major crimes in our city.
In closing I must say Public Safety is not just all about the police department. We have the BEST fire department in the state of NJ that we could do another 5 questions on. They too feel the hardship our city is going through right now. Our Department of Public Works is also in my eyes one of our first responders to public safety issues, from snow removal to hazardous situations in our parks and on our streets. They are our unsung heroes that take a lot on with very LIMITED resources and Finances.