Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca reports that, due to a state law, the Township of Maplewood will not be able to launch a nationwide search for a new police chief.
The news was first reported by TAPintoSOMA after DeLuca and Acting Chief Jim DuVaul responded to questions at a meeting of the Hilton Neighborhood Association on Thursday.
“There is a state law that our attorneys believe pertains to Maplewood regarding the appointment of a superior officer,” DeLuca told Village Green in a follow up. DeLuca cited New Jersey Code TITLE 40A – MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNTIES, 40a:14,40A:14-129 – Promotion of members and officers in certain municipalities, which reads:
“In any municipality wherein Title 11 (Civil Service) of the Revised Statutes is not in effect, and except in cities of the first and second class, a promotion of any member or officer of the police department or force to a superior position shall be made from the membership of such department or force. Due consideration shall be given to the member or officer so proposed for the promotion, to the length and merit of his service and preference shall be given according to seniority in service…. No person shall be eligible for promotion to be a superior officer unless he shall have previously served as a patrolman in such department or force.”
Maplewood leaders were intent upon conducting a national search after the resignation of former Chief Robert Cimino in September. DeLuca announced that the Township Committee had agreed to launch a nationwide search for a new chief at a Township Committee meeting in September 2017 and would collaborate with community groups throughout the process.
“We have more to do…but are moving in the direction all of us would like to see,” said DeLuca in September.
The Township has been working to re-organize and reinvent the police department before and after the explosive incidents of July 5, 2016 came fully to light last summer. Changes have included the departure of Cimino and Captain Joshua Cummis, new training, community outreach and ongoing work to form a community/civilian review board to work with the police department.
However, DeLuca said that the Township became aware of the potential for a constraint in the police chief search late last fall and reported it to community groups: “At a December 6 meeting with SOMA Justice, SOMA Action and CCR members to discuss the Civilian Police Board, I informed the group that there was a legal opinion saying we had to promote from within. I said that we were still determining whether or not the law applied to Maplewood.”
“At the January 2 closed Township Committee meeting, we made a determination that the law applied to us and we would proceed with the interview process for Chief. We instructed [Township Administrator] Joe Manning to notify Lieutenants, Captains and the Acting Chief that applications would be accepted for the position of Chief through January 26, 2018.” DeLuca noted that on “November 8, the Township Committee decided in closed session to move forward with the promotional interviews for Captain, Lieutenant and Sergeant and to hold off on the Chief decision until the Captain and Lieutenant promotions were made. The promotions were done at the December 19 Township Committee meeting.” Minutes for both closed sessions are posted below, and were provided by DeLuca.
Acting Chief Jim DuVaul, who has been working closely with the Township Committee and community groups since his appointment in August, told Village Green that he looked “forward to being considered. I appreciate the opportunity I have as Acting Chief to show that I am up to the large task ahead of bringing change to the Maplewood Police Dept.”
In response to requests for comments, the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, SOMA Justice and SOMA Action responded with statements. All three groups expressed frustration with the state law but signaled their interest in continuing to work with the Township and the police department. The CCR called on the Township to provide “opportunity for members of the community to meet the final candidates and provide feedback.” SOMA Acton said the process must continue to be “collaborative” in order “to ensure our department serves our community and reflects the values and diversity of the community.” And SOMA Justice responded, “It is extremely concerning to hear that we must promote from within” and asked that “the TC to be more transparent about this decision and the laws that are inhibiting a national search.” The Black Parents Workshop expressed confidence in DuVaul and wrote, “Our opposition to the former chief was not an indictment of the entire department, but our lack of confidence in its former leadership. We stand ready to assist Acting Chief DuVaul and the township in the transformation of our police department into a national model of effective and community-focused policing.”
See the full statements here:
From the Executive Committee of the Community Coalition on Race:
“The NJ statute precludes an external process for hiring a police chief within NJ municipalities and this is problematic if a township is seeking to change the culture and practices of a department, or simply seeking skill sets that don’t exist within the current eligible force. State level changes are needed so that if a municipality determines a wider search is in the best interest of the community, the municipality is able to meet that need. With each and every candidate interviewed and considered for the Chief role, the Township Committee must ask the tough questions to ensure the next person at the helm of the Maplewood Police Department is actively ensuring that training, supervision, policies, and much more are actually in line with evidenced-based best practices and tailored to the needs of our diverse community. We also call for an opportunity for members of the community to meet the final candidates and to provide feedback. The voice of the community must be heard on matters of public safety.”
From SOMA Action:
“The initial request for a nation-wide search came from our hope to find a transformational leader who can lead our police department through a cultural sea-change. As the township considers which officer it is promoting, we request that they interview with that in mind and that they they consider and commit to the investment they must make in professionally developing the leadership of the chief, as well as of the staff up and down the line to ensure they have the skills to intervene with their peers and supervisors when necessary, as was indicated in the Hillard Heintze report. We continue to believe in working with the police department and town committee going forward in a collaborative nature to ensure our department serves our community and reflects the values and diversity of the community.”
From SOMA Justice:
“It is extremely concerning to hear that we must promote from within. If we are truly to change the culture of the police force we need to be considering candidates from a much wider pool. It is our opinion that these types of rules have been too influential in addressing a crisis triggered by the behavior of police officers themselves, starting with the removal of the chief. We recognize the constraints of law and union contracts but would ask the TC to be more transparent about this decision and the laws that are inhibiting a national search. We need to take care that we are balancing the demands of police officers with the needs of Maplewood residents. Moreover, we continue to request that community members be involved in the selection process however it unfolds.”
From Black Parents Workshop:
“We have been working with Acting Chief DuVaul over the last several months and have found him to be responsive to concerns that we have brought to him. We have never been of the opinion that a ‘national search’ for a new chief was necessary. In fact, it would have been expensive and not necessarily productive in identifying the right personnel to lead the department. Acting Chief DuVaul has shown us that there are qualified, concerned and socially aware members within the police department. Our opposition to the former chief was not an indictment of the entire department, but our lack of confidence in its former leadership. We stand ready to assist Acting Chief DuVaul and the township in the transformation of our police department into a national model of effective and community-focused policing.”