Palisades Park NJ looking to hire Civilian Police Director

PALISADES PARK — The borough is seeking to hire a civilian police director amid scrutiny from the police chief for mishandling the school safety program.

The hiring of a police director is the latest overhaul to the department’s structure, which has seen the addition of more senior positions and eight promotions. Also, more police officers will be hired in the new year.

The job advertisement for the position of Director of Civilian Police was posted on November 24, just three days before the publication of an independent school investigation report.

Borough administrator Dave Lorenzo could not be reached to explain why the position was reinstated.

A school district report primarily blamed Police Chief Mark Jackson for several issues found in a school security program — which has since been dismantled — that put armed guards in schools without background checks.

The leader failed to conduct background checks, obtain approval from the state Department of Education, consult with the superintendent on hiring school security guards, and provide proof of training to officers who had been stationed at the schools for nearly four months, according to the report, obtained through a public records request.

Jackson did not respond to a request for comment.

“Clearly the shared service agreement gave the Borough of Palisades Park, particularly the chief of police, most of the time all the power and decision making in hiring and background checks. school security guards,” the report said.

In recent months, the board has changed the organizational chart of the department increasing senior positions and has promoted one captain, three lieutenants and five sergeants and is looking to hire at least five new officers.

This department is currently composed of 15 senior officers and 18 patrol officers.

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The current list of police director positions required candidates to have at least 25 years of law enforcement experience and to have held a senior officer position, and said military training was favourite. It also required experience and in-depth knowledge of how local government operations work. Applications were due November 30.

A public records request for resumes and applications for the position was denied by the borough as the recruitment search is still ongoing. Once a candidate has been hired, resumes and the application will be posted, said Gina Kim, borough clerk.

The position of police director was created by the municipality in 2010 and was held for five years by Michael Vietri, a former chief. At the time, Vietri was working part-time with a salary of $35,716.

The decision to eliminate the post came after a report recommended to the council that the position of chief or chief constable should be eliminated due to overlapping responsibilities.

Mayor James Rotundo felt then-chief Ben Ramos had enough experience to run the department on his own, and Vietri was fired in late 2015.

Rotundo could not be reached for comment.

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