Mayor Douglas H. Palmer told the Times of Trenton today that he does not desire a drawn-court battle over the recent removal of Police Director Joseph Santiago, after making threats to drag out the director’s ouster in the court system a few months ago.
Those statements may be slightly encouraging, but that is where the positive nature of Mayor Palmer’s exchange in the Times piece ended.
The mayor said that city residents and law enforcement officials have rallied around Mr. Santiago leadership as police director, but anyone with a working set of eyes or ears sees this as simple political banter.
At best, community and police support for the director was divided.
In fact, it is likely that very few people in the community supported Mr. Santiago, especially with the recent flare-up of violence in the West Ward and the resulting, somewhat menacing police presence there.
The executive also said that people should not be acting like this is some kind of victory.
But that is exactly what this is, for everyone who supports the rule of law, democracy, and the entire City of Trenton.
Palmer had become a municipal executive who thought he could warp and bend the law to his liking, to inflict pain on city employees who did not support the mayor’s line while sparing others.
Any elected official with such a mentality is a major problem for every city resident, whether they be an employee or not.
It meant that city employees who may or may not be better at their specific jobs were favored or unfavored based on their support for the mayor, without reference to how they do the job of providing services to the City of Trenton.
Those advances of executive power – initially unchecked by City Council or anyone else – has now been repulsed, and the mayor can no longer act like some sort of divine, all-powerful being.
Mayor Palmer said city residents are more concerned about public safety than residency. That is definitely true, but a politicized police department led by a law-breaking egomaniac is hardly the best instrument to go about fighting serious, urban crime.
An un-politicized department led by a responsible Trenton resident who has the respect of the rank-and-file members of the department and the residents is the way to public safety salvation for Trenton.
That was never the reality under Mr. Santiago, just ask almost any patrolman on the force. All you have to do is look at their faces. They are smiling again.