PATERSON, NJ – In an effort to redeploy some police officers, the city has asked the state’s permission to hire 17 school crossing guards, according to Public Safety Director Director Glenn Brown.
At present, the city uses police officers to fill in at vacant crossing guard posts when school starts in the morning and at dismissal in the afternoon. Usually, that means more than 20 police officers per day get pulled from their regular duties to cover the crossing guard assignments, officials said.
The number of school crossing vacancies grew in 2011 when the city laid off 16 of the guards, leaving 106 on the payroll.
Brown confirmed the application to hire the extra crossing guards after last week’s City Council hearing on the police department’s proposed $48.1 million budget, which includes $46.5 million for salaries. About $3.1 million of the police salary account is covered by federal grants and other programs that don’t use city property taxes.
The preliminary budget didn’t include all the expenses that law enforcement officials anticipate for the coming. Among those that still need to be added to the budget are several hundred thousand dollars for an upgrade in the radio system, $100,000 for gas masks and an unspecified number for the proposed new special police unit.
Acting Police Chief William Fraher said the creation of the special police unit will end up saving the city money by reducing overtime payments to regular officers for security at community events and parades. For example, Fraher told the council that this month’s Dominican parade cost more than $100,000 for police overtime.
The City Council targeted police overtime during the past year. At one point, the council held back checks on the grounds that the administration had not provided enough documentation to substantiate the overtime. Facing a legal challenge by the police officers’ union, the council eventually relented.
Preliminary budget figures put police overtime in 2013 at $1.7 million. That’s $413,391 more than what was budgeted last year, and about $102,000 more than what was spent.
As a result of the retirements in the past eight months of Chief James Wittig and Deputy Chief Robert Drace,the city police department has openings in two of the four top slots in its table of organization.
Brown told the council he planned to cut the number of deputy chief positions from three to two and to increase by two the number of captain slots to eight.