The long-awaited special police officers who will play a pivotal role in curbing quality-of-life crimes and other ordinance violations in the city are expected for deployment on Monday, according to city officials.
25 special police officers will join the force, said police director Jerry Speziale. The director said the specials serve under the city police traffic division. “They will be deployed in all the business areas throughout the city,” said Speziale. He said they will also be deployed at parks.
“This will have a great positive impact on the parks,” said Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, on Tuesday evening. He said Pennington Park and Eastside Park will each have a dedicated special police officer on a cart patrolling to protect residents.
“A lot of people complain they don’t feel secure in the park,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, who serves as the chairman of the council’s public safety committee. He said parents with children often say they do not feel safe visiting local parks.
The lack of security at city parks was underscored by a recent incident involving councilwoman Maritza Davila’s son. Davila’s son was at Pennington Park on Friday afternoon playing soccer with his friends when a man approached, snatched his backpack, and ran with it.
“There was no security there, there was no police or anything,” said Davila. “They [children] should be able to feel safe in the park. This happened to my child and this could happen to anyone else’s child. I want to see more security.”
The director said the special police will have two kubotas, all-terrain vehicles that are similar to golf carts, which will be used to patrol the two parks.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, wanted more security at Wrigley Park, where she said people hang around late into the night. She wanted her park to get an unit like the aforementioned parks.
Akhtaruzzaman said the specials will deter drug users from the parks. He said at present there are individuals who hang about the park smoking marijuana. The specials will be able to issue tickets for various ordinance violations like loud music, panhandling, and parking violations, said Speziale.
Before they can start enforcing the law the 25 still have some training left. They must undergo training with Narcan, an anti-overdose spray, mace, and baton training, said the director. Those three areas will be covered in training sessions on Saturday before their assignment on Monday, said Speziale.
The original ordinance adopted more than nine-months ago called for 50 special police officers who are not allowed to carry firearms. The specials will be equipped with mace, batons, and bullet proof vests, according to city officials.
They will be working part-time 20 hours a week at $15 per hour. For the first few weeks the 25 specials, who will be joined by an additional 25 special police officers at some point in the future, will learn while on duty. They will learn to write tickets and reports, said the director.
After the ordinance passed and the specials got their passing marks on the exams there was not much in terms of updates on the special police officers until last week when mayor Jose “Joey” Torres inquired about the program’s status.
Torres’ follow-up got the ball rolling on the special police officers program. City officials are betting big on the special, class-one, police officers to take on quality-of-life issues that often cannot be addressed by regular police officers who are occupied with much more serious crimes.
“They will be an integral part, as the eyes and ears, of the police department,” said Speziale. “They will help to assist in making a better quality of life for the citizens of Paterson.”