In an effort to win back his seat on Common Council, one candidate has been attacking his opponent, Sandra Lizza, portraying her as weak on public safety while marking a return to his vitriol that tore this community apart back in 2010 and 2011 while eroding the public’s confidence in our first responders and, even worse, their confidence in the public they had sworn to protect and serve.
Most recently he has accused her of remaining “Silent on Council cuts to our Police and Fire Departments” and implying more cuts to both departments, beyond the two-position reduction made through attrition to the Police Department in early 2010, are imminent. To further his case, and despite statistics showing crime has decreased in Summit since 2010, he has cited an “understaffed” New Providence Police Department, a home invasion in Millburn and a carjacking in Chatham to prove his point Summit is now somehow less safe than in 2010.
I have had the honor of serving as Chairman of Summit’s Public Safety Committee since being elected to council in 2011 overseeing the governance of Summit’s Police and Fire Departments. I want to assure the public Council, along with the Mayor, is committed to having the best possible Police and Fire Departments despite a still very weak economy and oppressive and unfair county tax burden.
After the 2011 elections, the Public Safety Committee, along with the rest of council, and the new mayor, worked respectfully and collaboratively, to set the following five objectives:
• Empower police leadership to do their jobs and not allow the force to be used as political pawns any longer.
• Restore public confidence in both departments, and their representative unions, and restore their confidence in the public they serve.
• Modernize the leadership and management of both organizations by selecting the best people for open leadership positions while ensuring all members of both departments have opportunities for growth and advancement.
• Ensure both departments have sufficient staffing, the best equipment and the best training possible.
• Modernize technology and leverage non-officer staffing as a force multipliers allowing our officers to focus on operational policing activities rather than time consuming administration and record keeping.
While we recognize we can never let our guard down, here are some highlights of what has been accomplished by the Police and Fire Departments, with the full support of council, since then:
• Eliminated the Deputy Chief of Police position and reallocated it to patrol allowing us to hire an additional patrolman.
• Hired five new police patrol officers replacing the deputy chief, three retirees and one resignation.
• Embarked on a police vehicle fleet modernization program adding four new Interceptor SUVs and three new Charger Pursuit sedans leveraging available cooperative buying and leasing programs allowing us to acquire new vehicles, when necessary, at half our previous annual cost.
• Purchased, and placed into operation, a new, state of the art, Fire Department Incident Command Vehicle.
• Purchased a new fire engine, replacing a malfunctioning 25-year-old unit, customized to meet the specific needs of Summit. We expect it to be in operation by the end of this November.
• Re-instituted downtown foot patrols that have been extremely well received by residents, merchants and patrons.
• Re-instituted a fully operational police active shooter response team conducting training scenarios in our school facilities (public and private) as well as joint training with neighboring police forces.
• Implemented an E-Ticketing system increasing the efficiency of our officers in the field.
• Implemented a new wireless records system providing police officers in the field with direct, immediate access to local, state, and federal crime databases. This replaced an inefficient, underperforming, and often malfunctioning system.
• Sent, at no cost to Summit taxpayers, a senior police leader to the FBI’s ten-week law enforcement course at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA for the first time in more than two decades.
• In addition to fully leveraging local and state training opportunities, numerous members of the Fire Department have attended training sessions at the FEMA operated National Fire Academy in Maryland and even attended training as far away as Arizona. All at little to no cost to Summit taxpayers.
I can assure members of both departments, and most importantly their families, there are no plans to make any “cuts” to our Police and Fire Departments and we will continue to ensure they are fairly compensated, well equipped and well trained.
And, I can assure the voters, I have had extensive discussions with Sandy Lizza and, as a member of Common Council, she will be fully supportive of our efforts to maintain the best possible Police and Fire Departments while using her extensive financial and management experience to help us operate even more efficiently without cutting anyone or anything. This is exactly the type of expertise we need to continue the excellence in both departments and not step back to the bitterness and distrust that existed just a few short years ago.
Member of Common Council, City of Summit
Chairman of Public Safety Committee