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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Editorials    >    From Chief to Public Safety Director


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From Chief to Public Safety Director

The Quest for 30 Pieces of Silver
Police and Law Enforcement News
Saturday, August 14
, 2010 5:26 p.m.

Over the past year or so we've seen a new trend spreading throughout our great state.

Retiring police chiefs say their goodbyes on the way out the front door and then return through the back door as the town's new public safety director. In some cases they barely leave the building or even their office as the deal was quietly struck before their date of retirement although there is a state required six month waiting period.

It's a great deal for the new director. He or she gets the monthly pension check from the Police and Fire Pension as well as a brandy new salary.  Plus, many of their old duties as chief are moved to the highest ranking officer.


Unfortunately, while this move works out great for them, in most cases it severely hurts the agency and the men and women they once led.

The position of public safety director is highly controversial at best. The only benefits to a town or city are the lower salary of the public safety director (not always the case) and the perceived extra powers the governing authority will gain over the agency.

The position also brings about a myriad of problems.

In an average sized department a captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant and a patrolman will lose their chance at promotion.

A conflict between the director and the highest ranking officer is more than probable: it is an absolute certainty, and it is not healthy for any organization nevermind a modern-day police department.

Agency-wide morale takes a hit as other officers watch promotions and other opportunities for advancement or transfer evaporate.

The clean lines in the chain of command become clouded and highly dependent upon the topic of the communication.  (continued below)


It is also confusing to the public who see the director as the boss but who, in fact, has little if any involvement with many parts of the police function. Consider the following from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police position paper on public safety directors:

For example, a civilian “director” cannot perform police duties including conducting motor vehicle stops, engaging in patrol activities, answering calls for service and stopping or detaining individuals. A “director” may not wear a uniform or badge or carry a firearm, nor may he or she operate a motor vehicle which is equipped as a police car including police band radios. Likewise, they have no powers of arrest and may not issue firearms permits.  Further, as a general rule a “director” may not have access to criminal investigative reports, nor may he or she have access to criminal history information. Likewise, such individuals must refrain, unless otherwise specifically directed by the county prosecutor, from directing the investigation of criminal activity. Nor may a “director,” as a civilian appropriate authority, have access to internal affairs investigative files absent a court order.  Moreover, a “director” may not examine confidential police reports or other confidential law enforcement documents, nor may he or she access the police department’s terminal for 12 N.J.S.A. 40A:14-152; N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3. 13.

In all honesty, most chiefs who swap for public safety director positions don't do it with malice, and perhaps our reference to Judas and the 30 pieces of silver was over the top, but this is how it feels and looks from the trenches.  This top-job swap has lasting affects on many people.

And in an economy where we need to fight for every job possible, eliminating one position for the benefit of one person is just not acceptable.  A chief or public safety director job is no more or less important than a patrolman's job.

We're straying as our beef here is with the backdoor deal makers.  The public safety position may be inevitable, but it shouldn't be the result of behind-the-scenes prodding by a chief looking for a second career. 

All police chiefs should leave their respective councils or committees with two things: an agency that is better than when they took it over and a strong recommendation against a public safety director. 

What do you think? Use the scroll box below to share your thoughts.


Share your Thoughts on This Editorial

While all opinions will be considered, we will not post any messages that are inflammatory, that bash any ethnic group, or that are just beyond reason.  Letters will be reviewed and posted each day. reserves the right to alter, shorten, or decline any submission. 


Your Comments

I have to agree, they serve no purpose but to promote in-decision among the ranks.  Their position is nothing more then a political pay back from the Mayor.

In some cases if the job comes with a car, the Mayor is likely to take it for himself, as we have seen in many cities, towns, ect.

The public safety director is nothing more then  what he is a HACK. POLITICAL HACK.

An outsider (as an example, say a retired high ranking federal agent) can bring considerable investigative and operational experience to the PD position and augment the department's reputation. The position of the Association for Chief's of Police is predictable. Clubby, yet predictable. Organizational diversity can also be defined and viewed as a qualified person with a different LE culture that brings new ideas and enthusiasm to the department. Just a thought. To stay the same and never change is boring. Response:  Good post.  It is true that new blood can breed new ideas and there may be times where a director is beneficial such as during a transition where the exiting executive did not prepare anyone. 

I've heard of a Chief taking a dual title as Public Safety Director and Chief for the same agency. How is that possible given the above mentioned limitations? The men I work with  may respect the position of Chief, not the man for his actions, there is still enough political influence with out a Safety Director.

This topic has been around for many years and for various reasons.  More often than not, the reason a community does not want a Chief is because the last chief was incompetent, failed to prepare a successor, or failed to lead properly.

The New Jersey State Chiefs Association is right and wrong in their position paper.  A Sworn Police Director (Capt. serving as Director) has all the rights the authority as a Police Chief without life tenure.  Civilian Directors, in the absence of a Chief, do in fact have authority over Day to Day operations.  They can operate an unmarked vehicle with a radio.  They cannot investigate, stop cars, or view Internal Affairs Investigative Reports unless they have the authority from the County Prosecutor.  They can display a badge and carry a firearm, but only with a Retired Law Enforcement Officers Carry Permit. 

You are so right in that a Police Chief should leave his/her agency in better condition than when they took command.  As far as back door deals are concerned, well we only have ourselves to blame.

I worked in an agency that had a public safety director, and they switched back to a chief recently...While he was a civil service Cpt, he was positioned as a director...Everything a director isn't supposed to do, he was doing.

Your comments are right on.  Some chiefs cannot retire in peace, they cannot let the job go.  Their power and there whole persona depend on it

The Chiefs Association has removed chiefs from their organization and it should happen to anyone who pulls this stunt. 

I am a retired Captain and totally agree. My 30 man dept. is exactly the scenario you describe. I left just before it occurred. I was 2nd in command for 10yrs. The chief, who has over a million dollars in inheritance money by the way, decided to stay until 65.

In a further move to reduce costs the town promoted one of the most junior, less than 5 yrs. actual police experience, to Captain to de-moralize the senior officers. Faced with no prospects of promotion to Chief and other ranks some are retiring. This pays for my old chief's new job.

Morale is non-existent and the dept. is being run by an incompetent and experienced individual. Who suffers the most, the cops who are miserable, going nowhere for the remainder of their careers or the public having a police force led by a rookie?  

My director has his nose in all Internal Affairs issues. Carries a Weapon during work. I think he broke all the above listed policies. What could possible happen to him? Really? This is all a joke. The people that want to kiss ass to get promoted will share all information with him just to get ahead.




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