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Posted: 12/25/2005 10:30:01 PM EDT
New Jersey Municipality Cop Selection Ignites Controversy
JOHN A. GAVIN, STAFF WRITER
The Record



RIDGEFIELD - The Borough Council's selection last week of two new police recruits has sparked a dispute over how the municipality selects its cops.

The dispute stems from six hires made this year after the borough shelved its longtime procedure to use a statewide police agency to test candidates in favor of an evaluation by a local police committee.

The new hiring policy has drawn complaints from several officials about its thoroughness, pool of applicants and even hints that some cops chosen for the job may have been handpicked.

The two new recruits, John Scarola and Hagop Cigercioglu, are members of the borough's 10-member special police department, a paid unit that does quasi-police work. Scarola is also the nephew of the Borough Attorney Stephen Pellino's wife.

"There was no written tests that could be objectively scored," said Councilman-elect Robert Avery, a selection procedure critic. "It was a simple interview. ... It was a beauty contest among the special police."

Both recruits will be sworn in as officers to the 27-man department next month, pending a background check and other preliminaries, officials said.

Like several towns, the borough decided to drop the standardized exam administered by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, which advertises for applicants and weeds out candidates who pay to take the test.

Instead, the borough uses a five-member panel made up of Borough Council members and local police, who evaluated seven candidates and graded them after asking set questions.

All the candidates were members of the special police. They were the ones in the department young enough and fit enough to apply. The special police has other members over the maximum police department applicant age of 35.

Police Chief John Bogovich, who serves on the panel, has expressed doubts about the procedure, questioning its inclusiveness and limits on choosing a wide field of candidates.

"We are just hiring with a subjective process," Bogovich said. "It's not a fair system for hiring. The mayor and council's responsibility is to hire the best candidate that they can."

Over the past year, four of the officers, including Scarola and Cigercioglu, chosen for the department were members of the special police, made up mostly of locals who aspire to serve the community.

Two of those officers also scored well on the borough's last police test, offered in mid-2004, officials said.

In September two other officers, Joseph Castellitto and Nicholas Coppolecchia, were lateral transfers from other police departments.

The hires replaced six longtime officers who announced their retirement within the span of a year.

Borough officials said its special police unit provides a unique resource.

Like other small, tight-knit communities, many residents know one another - growing up and settling in the same town. Because of that familiarity, they said people feel they can trust officers with town roots.

"Anybody can take a test, but who's really committed to the town?" said Councilman John Quaregna, the police commissioner. "Our specials are trained. They are monitored. We know whether they will do a great job or not."

Quaregna said the borough uses the position as an entry-level job to gauge potential. He said it's an environment where they can evaluate a candidate's work habits and effectiveness before they are hired into the force.

The program produces candidates the borough feels comfortable with when investing to send them to the police academy, Quaregna added.

That familiarity and closeness to the community has also raised some doubts.

Avery said he is concerned that several officers are too connected with people in local politics.

"We need to make sure that government benefits everyone in the community, not just ... a next-door neighbor," Avery said.

Besides Scarola's relationship with Stephen Pellino, Castellitto is a neighbor of Quaregna.

Pellino, who grew up in the borough, said such occurrences shouldn't be looked at for more than what they are.

He said there are many people related to key officials in the borough, a phenomenon of living in a small town.

"Ridgefield is a small community," Pellino said. "People went to school together, they are going to be related to each other and live next door. Should someone be penalized for that?"

Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:34:37 PM EDT
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:42:12 PM EDT

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



Perhaps not at all. But do you belive they got the best possible candidates out of a pool of only 10? Those ten guy were the best applicants in the county, state, nation for the job?

We test 100 to find 1 recruit who has only about a 60% chance of graduating the academy.
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:43:02 PM EDT

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



That is what happened last time my local PD hired. 400+ took the written test. 150 got interviewed. 8 were hired. All 8 of those were currently serving as reserve officers.
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:45:37 PM EDT
Gee what a shock! I can think of this kind of stuff going on everywhere, in almost every type of career.
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:45:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Kooter:

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



That is what happened last time my local PD hired. 400+ took the written test. 150 got interviewed. 8 were hired. All 8 of those were currently serving as reserve officers.



That doesnt seem cost effective.

If you use a reserve to fill a full time position then you create a reserve vacancy which must be filled.
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:47:28 PM EDT
Where you work, do they hire who they want or does someone else tell them who to hire?
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:52:56 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By Kooter:

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



That is what happened last time my local PD hired. 400+ took the written test. 150 got interviewed. 8 were hired. All 8 of those were currently serving as reserve officers.



That doesnt seem cost effective.

If you use a reserve to fill a full time position then you create a reserve vacancy which must be filled.



They got rid of the reserve program.
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 10:57:27 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



Perhaps not at all. But do you belive they got the best possible candidates out of a pool of only 10? Those ten guy were the best applicants in the county, state, nation for the job?

We test 100 to find 1 recruit who has only about a 60% chance of graduating the academy.



For a smaller agency it is probably more cost effective to move somebody from special/reserve to full-time because 'you' have a very good idea of what the person is like. And it's probably cheaper to hire/train somebody for special/reserve status because you have less money in the training if the person can't cut it. At my dept, 4 of 33 sworn were CSO's at the dept.

Frankly, I tend to believe that somebody that has put the time/effort into becoming a special/reserve/CSO is probably one of the better candidates because they have put forth the extra effort.

I do see a large potential for nepotism/good ol' boy type problems but I'd take those on a case by case basis. As long as the standards aren't being compromised I don't have a problem with the limited hiring pool.

Brian
Link Posted: 12/25/2005 11:09:23 PM EDT
I don't have a real problem with hiring from reserves to fill full time vacancies, as long as it is done fairly. Hiring as a reserve first allows the department to see what kind of officer they will be and weed out some bad ones before they go full time. Also, it allows you to fill a full time vacancy faster as all the training is done and it is just a payroll change, and then you can take your time and be carefull about how you fill the less critical reserve position.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 12:16:13 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Kooter:

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



That is what happened last time my local PD hired. 400+ took the written test. 150 got interviewed. 8 were hired. All 8 of those were currently serving as reserve officers.



Because as reserves they were proven candidates vs an unknown.
Same as when in college a student interns with Company A and does well he is always hired before an unknown applicant
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:11:23 AM EDT

Originally Posted By JosieWales:

Originally Posted By Kooter:

Originally Posted By brian4wd:
How is that any different than what happens when a reserve is hired for a full-time position?

Brian



That is what happened last time my local PD hired. 400+ took the written test. 150 got interviewed. 8 were hired. All 8 of those were currently serving as reserve officers.



Because as reserves they were proven candidates vs an unknown.
Same as when in college a student interns with Company A and does well he is always hired before an unknown applicant



Then why the hell did they even bother taking applications if they already knew who they were going to hire? There were several sworn officers from other depts that also tested. I have a hard time believing that atleast one of those officers wasn't a better candidate than most of the reserves that got the job.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:17:33 AM EDT
And the alternative is hiring black female midgets?

They sounded like good candidates to me. Nice Italian boys.

Everyone knows Italians and Irishmen make good cops!
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:18:37 AM EDT
Reserves require less train-up time. They are already familiar with how the entire system works.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:21:10 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Misery:
Gee what a shock! I can think of this kind of stuff going on everywhere, in almost every type of career.



And you are correct........which is sad!
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:23:58 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Misery:
Gee what a shock! I can think of this kind of stuff going on everywhere, in almost every type of career.



Yep. Nothing new here.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:25:13 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Garand_Shooter:
I don't have a real problem with hiring from reserves to fill full time vacancies, as long as it is done fairly. Hiring as a reserve first allows the department to see what kind of officer they will be and weed out some bad ones before they go full time. Also, it allows you to fill a full time vacancy faster as all the training is done.



That must be a regional thing. In the rare instance we make one of our reserves a full time employee he must still start at Day 1 in the academy just like every new recruit. Same for laterals from out of state.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:27:11 AM EDT
Our reserves will have already gone through our academy before being sworn in.
Link Posted: 12/26/2005 10:31:25 AM EDT

Originally Posted By AR15fan:

Originally Posted By Garand_Shooter:
I don't have a real problem with hiring from reserves to fill full time vacancies, as long as it is done fairly. Hiring as a reserve first allows the department to see what kind of officer they will be and weed out some bad ones before they go full time. Also, it allows you to fill a full time vacancy faster as all the training is done.



That must be a regional thing. In the rare instance we make one of our reserves a full time employee he must still start at Day 1 in the academy just like every new recruit. Same for laterals from out of state.



Reserves here go through the same academy as a full-timer.
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