The city’s governing body approved mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ revised appointment of popular former Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale as full-time police director.
In a 6-0 vote on Tuesday evening Speziale’s status was changed from a part-time to a full-time police director. The former New York City police officer was appointed as part-time police director by Torres in July 1st, 2014 when the mayor returned for a third nonconsecutive term.
Torres’ administration took the police and fire directors — $45,000 each post — salaries for a full-time police director. The mayor filled in as an acting fire director without any pay, according to city officials.
The city council late last month amended the municipal code to create a full-time police director position at $92,000 salary for Speziale.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, praised the director’s work and noted his response time. Sayegh said Speziale responds to issues and concerns 24 hours a day.
“He’s making a lot of progress,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, who serves as chairman of the council’s public safety committee. He said the improvement is palpable on the street.
“The perception overall is changing,” said Akhtaruzzaman. The director has been focusing a great amount of energy in building morale in the department and legitimacy in the communities that have a historical mistrust of police.
Speziale, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Caldwell College, began as a police officer at the New York City Police Department after which he climbed to the rank of detective, according to his resume. He later joined the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office to lead its narcotics and money laundering task force.
Speziale then became the chief of New Hope, Penn. police department. He subsequently obtained a high ranking position as chief of department at the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office after which he served as Passaic County Sheriff for almost a decade.
In 2010, Speziale left his sheriff post to become deputy superintendent of police at the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Police Department. He then, for two years, served as police chief of Prichard, Alabama, before returning to Paterson.
Speziale also has a master’s in government administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The director privately thanked both the mayor and the council for their confidence in appointing him as the full-time director of the city’s more than 400-person police force which also includes two dozen special police officers.
“I have worked in many places in many capacities throughout my career, but being able to lead Paterson’s finest is the greatest honor,” said Speziale.