Atlantic City Police Takes a Stand Versus New Jersey State Takeover
Statement on Status of State Takeover
The men and women of the Atlantic City PBA remain committed to supporting the financial health of the City and enhancing the professionalism of the Police Department. The facts prove that the PBA was not only making concessions at the table before the State takeover but statistics prove the Department is a leader in policing reform and community relations because of our members.
The time has come to recognize our service and sacrifices with revisions to the State takeover law. We have asked simply for a return of basic employee rights to ensure every officer is treated fairly in promotions and hiring, that the rules for discipline are equal for all and that conflicts with the City be resolved by the independent professionals at the Civil Service Commission and the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC). The time has come to treat our members with the respect that we have earned.
A simple look at the facts demonstrates that the ACPD is a leader in reducing Use of Force, in expanding outreach to the community and in responding to complaints. Atlantic City is not a sleepy beach town. It is a small City with a nearly non-stop entertainment industry. Yet, in 2020 there were only 71 Internal Affairs complaints and only 5 excessive force complaints compared to 42 in 2014. Crime has dropped 33%.
We also need to remind the State and the Legislature that we were the first to come to the table under Mayor Guardian in good faith to help reduce salary and other costs. Before the State takeover, we worked with the City and its fiscal monitor to cut salary costs by 20%. Yet, our members continue to bear the brunt of cuts that have decimated our morale and staffing levels. The average Atlantic City officer and sergeant have experienced $12,000 in cuts to their pay under the State takeover. Our members now make less today than they did in 2012. We are one of the lowest paid departments in New Jersey and as a result our officers are leaving at an alarming rate. This is what happens when employees are stripped of their collective bargaining rights.
There are also risks to the Department and to public safety if the takeover is continued and the State is permitted to continue to control hiring, promotions and discipline as a tool to punish employees without any employee recourse outside of the Courts. We will continue to experience high turnover as employees look for jobs in Departments with better pay and morale. All of our gains will be for nothing if our officers do not feel safe in their duties.
And perhaps nothing typifies our concerns more than the State looking to hire a Chief from outside of our ranks. This blatant disregard of state law would leave a scar that the State can’t fix. We succeeded in reforms and cut costs precisely because we had leadership from within the ACPD who knew our needs, respected our officers and were committed to the City and their fellow officers.
The AC PBA stands ready to work with the State and the City to make Atlantic City a beacon of safety and economic development. The State should be willing to provide us with respect.