The city council was caught by surprise on Wednesday night to find a new position in the police department budget for a community relations specialist.
“I don’t remember this position,” remarked Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He said he did not see the community relations specialist job during the previous year’s police department budget hearing.
Police director Jerry Speziale said the position is a requirement for the safe city initiative the city is working on with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The position is held by Rick Prince, president of the Ceasefire community group.
Prince was hired for the position on October 26th, 2015 for a $25,000 salary, according to city records.
Morris said the council never created this position. Business administrator Nellie Pou said it’s common practice for the administration to create positions and fill them. “It’s not an extra expense,” she said.
Police chief William Fraher said the funds to pay for Prince’s salary was taken from a clerk who had retired. He said police hired a second clerk with half of the older clerk’s salary and the rest was used to support the new community relations specialist position.
“There could have been potential savings,” said Morris.
Speziale said the community relations specialist works with community groups. He said he also interacts with law enforcement. Council president William McKoy wanted the administration to provide a job description for the position.
The city’s hiring of Prince at the police department has created a rift in the Ceasefire community group.
“It’s disgraceful he’s getting a pay check,” said Sylvia Farrar, a member of the group’s executive board. “He profited off Ceasefire.” She said she and other members were not made aware of Prince’s employment at the police department.
Prince could not be reached for comments on Thursday morning.
Allan Boyer, pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church, who serves as the vice-president of the Ceasefire community group, said he was not aware whether the position was paid or not. He said he did not see any issues with Prince working for the police department.
Prince has an office outside of the police department as part of the safe city initiative. The initiative requires a civilian program director, said Speziale.
Farrar said the funds should have been given to the community group to further its activities. She said the funds could have assisted the group in training new members to put more “boots on the ground.”
This year’s police budget lists the full-time community relations specialist position at $26,000 salary, said officials.