Municipal officials held a heartfelt ceremony at the City Council on Tuesday night to bid farewell to popular police chief Troy Oswald.
Oswald served as police chief for two years before being ousted by mayor Andre Sayegh through a settlement agreement. He leaves on Jan. 31.
“How the hell am I going to do this?” Oswald recalled thinking while taking a shower after a shift. “How am I going to walk away in two and half days from something that I love and that’s been me?”
Oswald began his career with the Paterson police nearly three decades ago.
Oswald had the radio blasting music. Suddenly, John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” his mother’s favorite song, interrupted his gloomy thoughts, lessening the burden. Some council members expressed sadness and anger at the chief’s imminent departure.
“I’m saddened that you are leaving,” said council president Maritza Davila, who handed the chief and his wife a framed resolution for his nearly 28 years of service. Three dozen police officers were in the council chambers. “It’s been a while since they had a leader like you. The new person that’s coming on board definitely has some shoes to fill.”
Sayegh has picked Ibrahim ‘Mike’ Baycora to lead the department. He will be sworn in on Feb. 1.
“We’re going to miss you. Your work for the city is second to none,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz, who handed a plaque to the chief on behalf of the 6th Ward. He offered the chief to serve as chairman of the public safety committee in the 6th Ward, he said.
“We’re better off for your service over these years. In the field your name has been legendary in Paterson,” said councilman William McKoy. “We’re proud of the work you’ve done. It’s a little sad seeing you go. All good things have to come to an end, right?”
McKoy said Oswald made a big impact in Paterson during his brief tenure as chief. Indeed, Oswald is responsible for boosting morale even while eight rogue police officers were arrested by the FBI.
Oswald has received praise from all corners for cracking down on corruption in the police force. His effort led to the arrest of the eight officers, who were shaking down residents and violating their basic rights. During his first year, homicides and shootings were drastically down, but climbed back up last year.
“Everything you’ve done, you’ve done by example,” said Alex Cruz, president of the police union. “True leadership is leading by example not by words.”
Oswald was chasing an armed suspect in the streets last week. Councilwoman Ruby Cotton said Oswald was fair and treated everyone, including those who might be involved in questionable behavior, as human beings.
“The community is going to miss seeing you,” said Cotton.
“It’s a shame that we don’t have the chief in command of the city here to say the same thing,” said councilman Luis Velez without naming the mayor. Sayegh was not present in the chambers to bid farewell to Oswald, who was the architect of his public safety plan released during the 2018 mayoral campaign. The public safety whitepaper was the sole plan the Sayegh campaign released during the election.
Sayegh’s leadership has been questioned by officials and residents over his tumultuous year and half in office. Many viewed the mayor’s decision to oust the chief as poorly conceived and likely to haunt him and his administration. Sayegh and his business administrator Vaughn McKoy and chief of staff Kathleen Long were involved in a salary dispute with the chief that prompted a whistleblower lawsuit.
Ultimately, the Sayegh administration gave Oswald his requested raise through a settlement agreement and secured his ouster. Councilman Michael Jackson, chairman of the public safety committee, criticized the settlement. Jackson viewed the settlement as very costly and not in the public’s interest.
“We’re forever grateful for your endeavors and all the things you’ve done for the city of Paterson,” said Winnie Harrison, a member of the Ceasefire community group. She thanked him for his active role in engaging residents through community gatherings. “I’m going to miss you. I pray the next chief that stands in your place steps up to the plate like you’ve done.”
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