VENTNOR – For the second time this year, the Board of Commissioners has introduced an ordinance to eliminate the Police Department’s deputy chief position.
Saying they needed more information about the needs of the Police Department, two of the city’s three commissioners Feb. 27 agreed to table Ordinance 2020-02.
On Thursday, Aug. 13, they introduced a new ordinance, stating the position is no longer needed. Mayor Beth Holtzman was absent from the Zoom meeting.
PBA Local 97 President, Ptl. Hommy Quinones questioned why the ordinance was being reintroduced before discussing it with union leaders.
“Local 97 was under the impression that the commissioners were going to meet with the local prior to reintroducing this ordinance,” he said. “Since the original meeting where this was introduced, we have yet to receive any notice from the commissioners with the intention to discuss this issue.”
Administrator Maria Mento said due to unforeseen circumstances, she has been unable to schedule a meeting since the issue was first discussed in December.
Quinones said the officers are concerned about a reduction in force.
Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Kriebel said Police Chief Douglas Biagi requested the position be eliminated because it is not needed.
“This is something that is within our purview to change,” he said. “The position is not necessary within the structure of the Police Department at this time.”
Mento said only one person has held the position for about two years – Howard Bloom, who retired in 2019. Bloom and Biagi, who were both captains seeking appointment to the chief’s position following former Chief Michael Miller’s retirement, were equally qualified to be the city’s top cop. Biagi was appointed chief May 1, 2017, and Bloom assumed the deputy chief position.
When the city held a public hearing on eliminating the position in February, Kriebel said “it was the right thing to do at the time. It was done as a way to recognize both captains, because only one of them could be chief.”
Both positions are administrative in nature. The position was never backfilled after Bloom retired on April 1, 2019. His salary at the time of his retirement was $159,650. The department currently has five lieutenants who supervise patrol units.
“I think the focus is to get men on the street and there are only so many dollars to go around to fund positions,” Mento said. “The officers, from what I heard, feel the same way. They want reinforcement on the street.”
Eliminating the position would not affect the number of officers on patrol, commissioners said.
“This change does not affect the overall reduction of the force. It’s an administrative position,” Kriebel said.
Kriebel said there is no reason to contemplate a reduction in patrol in the shore town, which requires more staffing during the 100 days of summer, especially now when there is more public scrutiny of police.
Mento said the city is planning to fill vacancies when other officers retire.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27.
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