UNION, NJ – Members of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA) and others attended a rally on Wednesday morning in a parking lot at Kean University to protest the actions of Kean University Director of Public Safety, Mark Farsi, in advance of a hearing for charges against twenty-year veteran officer and PBA representative Alex Perez, a Union resident.
According to the PBA, Perez and three other Kean University police officers have been “targeted by Farsi and are being unfairly persecuted for reporting potential crimes by civilian supervisors to the local prosecutor and for fighting to uphold the terms of their labor contract.”
“They (Kean University) routinely had over 30 officers,” said PBA President Patrick Colligan. “They’re down to 18. They have five administrators in the Public Safety Department, so this is a more dangerous university than when Farsi got here. You can’t have abysmal moral with one of the highest attrition rates and expect to have a line at the application window. They are losing officers in the academy. They are leaving before they set foot on the campus.”
“Our goal is to make the administration here make this campus safer,” said Perez. “Our intention is to bring safety to the students.” Perez said he feels campus police are ill prepared to deal with an active shooter situation or other emergency scenarios. “We don’t have the personnel, equipment or training,” he said. “If my kids went to school here, I’d pull them out. There’s not enough safety personnel.”
“Kean University is one of the safest campuses in the country,” countered University Vice President Karen Smith. “This is a personnel matter. We are confident the evidence here is strong and the facts support that.” Smith said there are currently 20 Kean police officers and admitted to having a high turn-over rate. “We do have high turn-over because municipalities pay more,” she said. “But we are diligently recruiting and in the past 18 months have had ten folks go through the (Union County Police) academy and join the department, and we have three more going into the academy in July.” Of the ten, Smith could not say how many are currently with the Kean force. She said recruitment is an ongoing process.
Smith said efforts (by administration) to enforce safety regulations and decrease overtime (for officers) are not popular, but necessary. “All personnel decisions are made with student safety in mind.”
State Senator Joe Cryan spoke to the crowd. “We stand by you,” Cryan said to the officers. “You deserve to have your jobs back, you deserve to get this university back on the right track. To the public listening or watching, this issue matters to you. These officers represent you, no matter where you live, no matter who you are because they keep us safe each day.”
“He (Farsi) basically has no idea how to run a police department,” said Lt. Keith Graham, another Kean University police officer on unpaid suspension. “None whatsoever.” A hearing to determine Graham’s fate is pending.
According to the New Jesey PBA, Farsi was selected from the Virginia correctional officer system by then-Governor Chris Christie to be the Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections in 2010. He then went on to become a Warden in the Sussex County Bureau of Corrections. Farsi then became Police Director at Kean University.
"Mark Farsi has a well-earned reputation in the law enforcement community as someone who will not hesitate to abuse his power and hurt anyone who would question his authority," said Colligan. "Farsi has been exposed at every position he finds himself in and now he is doing what comes naturally by using his position to unfairly charge well-respected officers and to create a so-called 'hearing' to try and destroy a respected 20-year veteran like Alex Perez.”
After an all-day hearing on Wednesday, no decision was made on Perez’s future. Perez continues to be suspended without pay
Editor's Note: In the interest of transparency, TAPinto Union's owner/publisher, Kathy Cryan, is married to State Senator Joe Cryan.