PATERSON, NJ – The state has approved Paterson’s request to rehire 17 crossing guards who were laid off last spring, a move that will allow city police officers to spend more time on their regular duties.

At one point last year, most of the city’s detective squad was assigned to fill the crossing guard posts left vacant by the layoffs, officers said. As a result, twice a day, detectives would have to set aside their investigations, change into uniforms and cross school children.

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Eventually, the responsibility for filling the vacant crossing posts was shifted to other divisions within the police department.

“Getting those 17 back will prevent me from taking 10 to 15 cars off the road on a daily basis twice a day,’’ said Paterson Police Director Glenn Brown. “That’s a major plus for us.’’

Business administrator Charles Thomas said the crossing guards should return to duty within a couple weeks.  As part of an agreement that provides Paterson with state Transition Aid, the city must get permission from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs before it hires anyone.

City education and public safety officials have identified 140 crossing guard posts that need to be filled near Paterson schools. Even after the 17 people are rehired, the city will not have all 140 posts filled and some police officers will continue to fill in for the vacancies, officials said.