ATLANTIC CITY — The Citizens Advisory Board has requested funding from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for additional full-time police officers.
In a letter dated Feb. 18 and hand-delivered to the CRDA Board of Directors the same day, the CAB requested funding for 63 police officers. Citing concerns about inadequate staffing levels, the CAB said the additional officers would be a “prudent use” of CRDA resources.
However, hiring the additional officers could be costly. A first-year patrolman makes $45,000 a year and tops out at $90,000, city records show.
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Since 2018, the CRDA has allocated more than $10 million toward full-time and Class II officers in Atlantic City. The CRDA money was used to hire 60 part-time Class IIs over that period as well as 15 patrolmen to replace those veterans who formed the Neighborhood Coordination Officer program.
Mayor Marty Small Sr., who serves on the CRDA board, said there are ongoing discussions regarding funding for even more Class IIs and NCOs.
Sheila Hull-Freeman, a CAB member and president of the Bungalow Park Civic Association, said the requested number of officers came from discussions with police Chief Henry White, who routinely participates in the CAB’s monthly meetings.
“We understand the effort that you’re undertaking with CRDA right now to get these additional officers,” Hull-Freeman said. “We don’t want to have not because we asked not.”
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The Atlantic City Police Department has 257 full-time officers.
The presence of additional officers on patrol and its effect on crime reduction cannot be “overstated,” Sgt. Kevin Fair said.
“To be able to add 63 officers to our ranks and to the streets of Atlantic City would have a tremendous positive impact,” Fair said. “More officers, whether on foot, on bike or on patrol, would obviously add to the police presence within the city and hopefully make the residents and visitors feel safe and be safe.”
The CAB said the extra officers are needed in the residential neighborhoods as well as the Tourism District, the area of the city that includes the Boardwalk, downtown and Marina District.
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The staffing levels of the Police Department, along with the Fire Department and multiple City Hall divisions, were reduced after the state assumed full control of the city in 2016. The reduction in the number of public employees was part of the state’s efforts to stabilize the city’s finances.
Matt Rogers, president of PBA Local 24, the union for the city’s rank-and-file officers, said the requested number of additional officers would put the department back to pre-state takeover staffing levels.
“It makes sense to us,” Rogers said. “(The state) based the cuts on the fact that (multiple) casinos had closed and (visitation) numbers were down. It’s clear now that we’re on the path to recovery with two new gaming houses (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort) open.”
Union leaders for the Police and Fire departments, as well as those representing City Hall workers, have said the state’s staffing cuts impacted employee morale and forced members to do more with less. Rogers said there was an expectation things would be different when Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration took over in 2018, but that has yet to materialize.
“There’s been very little in the way of change,” he said. “It’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ across the board. We just haven’t had any victories anywhere or any attempt to get back to close to where we were.”
The Atlantic City Citizens Advisory Board meets monthly and holds public meetings quarterly. The board was created by city ordinance in 2018 based on a recommendation contained in the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, former special counsel to Murphy.