ATLANTIC CITY — Gov. Chris Christie’s press conference that bashed Mayor Don Guardian and other city officials also brought them good news — a countywide police force is off the table, Guardian said.
Once the press conference ended, city and union officials confirmed that a regionalization of the Atlantic City Police Department into a countywide force was not going to happen after they saw the lack of interest in the plan from the state and county.
All this comes as Christie pushes for a bill that would lead to a state takeover of the city’s government as it runs out of money.
After a press conference of his own Wednesday afternoon, Guardian said he is very pleased there is no interest in a countywide police department.
“I want the city to have its own police department because it’s a good police department,” Guardian said of the 285-member force.
Guardian said 18 months ago Christie assigned a retired police chief who came to Atlantic City, made recommendations and assessed the department.
The cuts made in the Atlantic City Police Department were similar to the cost savings in Camden, so there is no need for a county force, Guardian said.
“All the reasons Camden had to use a county department are not prevailing here in Atlantic City,” Guardian said.
“We want our own police department, and if it had turned out that Christie was going to force a county department, we would have fought that,” said city Council President Marty Small. “That’s what we’re doing; this is a fight,” .
Small said Christie has repeatedly taken shots at Atlantic City police officers and Chief Henry White for what Christie said was their high salaries and generous benefits.
“You guys all do a great job,” Small told a crowd of city police officers assembled in City Council chambers for Guardian’s press conference.
City police officers and union officials said they were anxious Wednesday morning because it was not clear what would happen at Christie’s press conference. The chatter in recent months about the possibility of a countywide force had city police on edge.
“It’s definitely a relief to our membership, because we’ve been doing everything possible to avoid a situation like that, and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” said Officer T.J. Moynihan, who is also president of the Local 24 New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto has refused to post the bill that would amount to a state takeover for a vote in the Assembly until changes are made to protect collective-bargaining agreements. Under the Senate bill, the agreements could be terminated.
Police said they will now wait for a bill from Prieto to see what happens with collective bargaining. Prieto is supposed to introduce a bill that would challenge a state takeover of Atlantic City.
“Now we need to protect the collective bargaining-agreements and the massive give-backs that the Atlantic City PBA has already given away,” said Patrick Colligan state president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.