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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Santiago to speak in AC

Trenton Police Director Joseph Santiago - he of the Stirling, New Jersey address - will be speaking to those attending the New Jersey League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City this week in a seminar about police departments headed by a chief of police versus a civilian director, like Mr. Santiago.

Funny how Mr. Santiago will probably espouse what he sees as the benefits of the system he currently heads, less than a week after Trentonian Editor Paul Mickle highlighted what has happened to a police department since it was injected with an unhealthy dose of politics.

It would be fairly easy to guess what the director will say are the benefits of appointed directors versus risen-through-the-ranks chiefs, but it is even easier to surmise what will not be said during that Atlantic City seminar.

Mr. Santiago won't describe how critics of the director and Mayor Douglas H. Palmer are discredited, relegated to midnight shifts, or driven out of the department and suspended in the appointed director system.

He also won't say that officers will be relegated to what amounts to political campaign work at press conferences designed to dispel crime reporting problems brought up in the Trenton media, like Mr. Mickle pointed out in his article last week.

And Mr. Santiago almost certainly won't say that switching to civilian directors through referendum is the best way for an angry mayor to get revenge on and reign in a police force that challenged that mayor during elections, heckled him during contract negotiations, and existed as one of the major bastions of resistance in the city.

And finally, he MOST certainly will not say that one of the benefits of being an appointed director is that he gets to bend the laws regarding director's residency inside the city.

All of that comes despite the fact that one of the major complaints about the chief system and the old police department was that it was led by white suburban men who did not actually live in Trenton and did not actually care about Trenton. But right now, Mr. Santiago does not live in Trenton, in clear violation of the law.

So this week, hopefully someone down in AC will tell the audience during Mr. Santiago's speaking engagement that the director system - as it currently works here in Trenton - is a hypocritical construction instituted for simple political gain and not, as it should have been, for the benefit of Trenton residents.

And all we have to show for it is a divided, politicized police force.

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