ATLANTIC CITY (March 20, 2019) – A community policing initiative based on a New York City model will start in the resort this summer, after the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority voted Tuesday to provide $1.5 million a year for five years.
The total of $7.5 million will allow the Atlantic City Police Department to hire 15 regular police officers to replace veteran officers, who in turn will be assigned to the city’s six wards in pairs, along with three officers who will be assigned to addressing vagrancy and homelessness in the Tourism District, said Chief Henry White.
The need for better police and community relations was stressed in the Johnson report, a September 2018 plan to strengthen the city’s government, civic engagement and community partnerships so the municipality can take back control of its government and finances from the state sometime after 2021. The report was drafted by Jim Johnson, the special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy.
White said the officers will begin community patrols by early summer. Two veteran officers will be assigned to each of the city’s six wards and be freed up from responding to 911 calls, said White.
“They will be more proactively engaging in the community — both residential and business communities,” said White. “They will be getting problems solved. We are going to take veteran officers who know the terrain of the city and know how government operates.”
CRDA Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the $1.5 million a year will also allow the city to hire 20 new Class II officers, on top of the 45 such officers the authority already is funding.
“We have been talking about this for two or three years,” said Mulcahy, who said it was the Murphy administration that allowed the idea to “get this over the finish line.”
Former State Police Lt. Col. Michael Fedorko, also the former chief of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police, will provide training for the officers, said Mulcahy.
“This goes to meeting the recommendations in the Johnson report,” said board Vice Chairman Richard E. Tolson. “It has the full support of the Attorney General’s Office as well.”
Tolson said the community officers will also receive training in how to help residents navigate getting help from city government.
Three assigned to the Tourism District will help casinos navigate getting help for the homeless and those with mental health and other problems who are currently engaging in aggressive begging and shoplifting, said White.
“We will try to alleviate the problems,” said White. “We have been arresting people forever, but it’s not solving the problem.”
Community policing will allow officers to dig deeper and make lasting change, he said.
“Our city is facing the facts — we have got to take care of our citizens and visitors with safety,” said resident and community leader Bill Cheatham in supporting the idea. “Maybe everybody can be proud of this city like I used to be proud of it way back.”
In other business, the CRDA board also voted to spend $500,000 to fund emergency repairs to the Boardwalk, which Mayor Frank Gilliam has said needs a $50 million rebuild.
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