The city brought on 28 new police officers on Wednesday pushing the number of cops in the department, for the first time since 2010, to above 400, said police director Jerry Speziale.
Municipal officials swore in the new officers at a City Hall ceremony yesterday. Speziale said the new officers will spend the next 22 weeks training at a police academy. He said they will be ready for deployment on Jun. 22, 2018.
“This will bring the ranks, for the first time in years, to 418 members,” said Speziale. The city has one of the worst police per capita rates in the state. In 2010, Paterson had 497 police officers; however, a layoff next year reduced that number to 357, according to New Jersey State Police data.
Speziale said the starting salary for each new recruit is $34,000. He said the department was approved to hire 30 cops.
“It’s very difficult because of physical fitness, psychological fitness,” said Speziale. There’s also the low starting pay that hampers recruitment efforts.
Former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres had vowed to strengthened the ranks of police as a campaign promise in 2014. He was successful in adding more than 20 police officers every year. However, police barely kept up with retirements.
Within the next year, Speziale said 77 officers will become eligible for retirement. “We need to stay on top of this,” he said. 59-percent of those are supervisors, he said. 80-percent of the patrol force has been with the department four years or less.
“Wow,” remarked council president Ruby Cotton when told of the number of officers becoming eligible for retirement.
This presents a problem because police need experienced and older officers to supervise the young ones.
“It’s a very young department,” said Speziale. He said the youthfulness of the department has infused it with vigor. He is worried there may not be enough adequately trained supervisors to watch over and assure accountability. “You need to have supervision especially when you have a young police department.”
Councilman Luis Velez, vice chairman of the public safety committee, hopes the addition of the 28 new officers will improve quality of life in the neighborhoods.
“This is going to produce a positive energy,” said Velez. “It’s having more eyes on our streets.”
Cotton said she hopes the new hires will improve response time. “This is a good sign,” she said.