During the scheduled capital budget workshop of March 22nd, council approved the only agenda item for the meeting, which was a resolution to conduct a staff and resource allocation study of the Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD). The study is to be conducted by Blue Shield Consulting (link) located in Morrsit0wn, NJ.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 4-0. According to Mayor Joseph Accardi, Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson was recused from the meeting and precluded from voting on the matter and Councilman Michael Yakubov being unable to make the meeting due to a work conflict. The mayor read a text sent by the 5th Ward Councilman into the record and stated, “He fully supports this measure based on the recommendation . . . of Council President Miranda in this matter.”
The resolution, numbered 76-12, was read into the record by the Borough Clerk:
Be it resolved by the mayor and council of the Borough of Roselle Park, Union County, New Jersey, that they hereby award a professional service contract to Blue Shield Consulting in the amount not to exceed $10,875 for a staff and resource allocation study of the Borough Of Roselle Park Police Department.
No other information was provided at the budget workshop but the resolution comes after a long discussion regarding staffing and police contract negotiations.
The matter of police personnel publicly started in January of this year and became an issue on February 2nd when council voted by a 5-1 vote to pass an ordinance which changed the hierarchical organization of the RPPD. The issue continued during the February 23rd municipal budget workshop when the matter of pending police hires and police contract negotiations were discussed among the governing body.
During the public portion of March 15th Mayor & Council meeting, the issue was discussed by various residents including former Roselle Park Police Chief Warren Wielgus who criticized the hiring freeze during the budget process.
Mr. Wielgsu stated that the municipality will not have adequate time to replace officers to maintain the current level of staffing. He added that serious crime, including murder, is probably going to be coming to Roselle Park, citing a double homicide in Roselle a few weeks previous.
“I am here to ask you to give the Chief the power to run his department,” he stated to the governing body and questioned the reason for delaying the hiring of personnel, “There isn’t one of you, except for Councilman Hokanson, that has any administrative experience running a police department.”
Resident Dawn Birkner also spoke and stated that she was speaking in support of the police department and that, according to her, due to the increased crime in the Borough of Roselle Park, “For the first time ever I feel unsettled as to the safety of my family members as well as myself.”
She inquired into the plan the municipality has in hiring what she understood to be the loss of five (5) officers by year’s end. The mayor stated he could not address the question in detail since the matter is a closed session item but that it would be handled.
“Public safety is of paramount concern,” 2nd Ward Councilman Caswell responded later in the meeting, “A couple of months to make a decision should not result in the hysteria that we’re starting to see, whether it be real or contrived and I certainly hope it’s not contrived.”
A video of the vote can be viewed below: