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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Santiago appears before council

City Council was a three-ring circus Tuesday as Trenton's embattled Police Director, Joseph Santiago, made an appearance before the city's governing body to outline the city's crime-fighting force and its plans for the near future.

Scores of residents, local activists, and the full command staff of the Trenton Police Department were present for the five-hour meeting, which was so extensive the council never got to go over the rest of the meeting's regularly-scheduled agenda.

Following a presentation highlighting what Mr. Santiago said was a consistent drop in crime since his arrival in the capital in 2003, City Council members interviewed the director and voiced their concerns about public safety and the police force.

Councilman Jim Coston brought up many topics of concern, and finished his questioning by asking about the director's continued residency situation, living outside the city in clear violation of city ordinances.

Mr. Coston said the council was beginning to discuss whether they needed to remove the director from his position.

"What one does matters more, speaks louder and with more clarity than what one says. If the Director will not move into Trenton, he should resign. If he won't resign, the Mayor should fire him. If the Mayor won't fire him, Council should utilize its statutory powers and remove him," said Councilman Coston. "To my colleagues, consider this the introduction of that discussion."

Councilman Manny Segura said he was concerned about gangs of youth terrorizing residents throughout the city, and asked what the police force could do to address the youths that gather on the city's streets daily.

"Most people are too scared to even say that 'that crime happened to me'," said Councilman Segura.

Councilman Geno Melone said the director had done a poor job responding to council requests for appearances and information, noting many of the questions and comments surfacing at the meeting could have been vetted at earlier council meetings.

Despite assurances from some council members about bringing more thorough action on the director's residency status, nothing in the form of resolutions or ordinance revisions ever came up at the meeting.

It remains to be seen whether rumors of lawsuits and a court battle over Mr. Santiago's residency, and ultimately his ability to occupy his position, become reality.

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