JERSEY CITY — Mayor Steve Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea announced at City Hall today that the city is moving forward with a plan to dismantle a program that allowed cops to work off-duty gigs, angering officers who say Fulop is punishing the entire force for the actions of a handful of bad cops.
The move comes as the program is under intense federal scrutiny, with 11 people, including ex-Police Chief Phil Zacche, admitting their involvement in a scheme that allowed officers to accept payments for off-duty jobs they didn’t work. Shea said today officers’ misconduct related to off-duty jobs is “much more widely spread” than what is publicly known and he suggested that the entire force knew about the malfeasance.
Fulop said the city will suspend immediately the requirement for off-duty cops for jobs that involve private citizens, truck and delivery escorts, jobs with businesses with liquor licenses, and for the Jersey City Housing Authority. Other off-duty assignments, like those at large construction sites and work by utility companies that involve traffic management, will end sometime in the next year.
“We think it’s an important step,” Fulop said at a City Hall press conference today. “We thought this program was corrupt in so many different facets that the only outcome that was acceptable to us and, we think, responsible for the Jersey City taxpayers, residents and for the future of the Jersey City Police Department is to end the program in its entirety.”
Private companies and public entities are permitted to hire officers to work off duty as traffic management or private security, with the city acting as an intermediary. The gigs are lucrative for officers. The roughly 800 cops who worked off-duty jobs in 2017 took in a total of $16 million, according to city payroll data. Six officers earned more than $100,000 from off-duty jobs alone, and another 100 earned more than $50,000.
Fulop’s action was met with a swift denunciation from Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association. Speaking at City Hall directly after the press conference, Disbrow disputed Shea’s claim that the entire police force knew that officers were abusing the off-duty jobs program.
Disbrow said eliminating the jobs entirely will harm public safety by taking away officers being paid for by private firms, not taxpayers.
“You’re taking 100 to 150 police officers off the streets” daily, he said. “I can’t quantify how much crime is deterred by having 150 more officers on the street that are not going to be there if this program is completely dismantled.”
The 11 officers who participated in the scheme investigated by federal prosecutors have admitted to taking money directly from vendors, who are supposed to go through the city; accepting payments from the city for off-duty jobs they didn’t work; and giving cash bribes to other officers in exchange for approving phony timesheets.
Shea today accepted some…