The two murders that occurred within 20 minutes of each other over the weekend in Trenton probably taxed the manpower of the police force to the limit, judging by the massive decrease in minimum police staffing levels the city has experienced over the last two years.
All of this is part-and-parcel of the chaotic and detrimental ruling style of former Police Director Joseph Santiago, who apparently believes the best use of high-ranking and high-paid Internal Affairs officers is for spending hours of overtime to investigate non-favored cops, rather than doing actual police work.
The Trentonian has already reported on the minimum staffing levels situation that is causing the City of Trenton to be covered by ever smaller numbers of officers, despite a continuing crime problem.
As reported by the Trentonian’s Joe D’Aquila, records obtained by police sources show a dramatic fall-off in the actual police presence in the east police district, versus the west police district, where minimum levels and the actual number of officers on the street has not fallen nearly as dramatically.
By early June this year, the east police district’s police presence had basically been halved through orders issued by the hand of former Police Director Joseph Santiago, with the 7 a.m., 8 a.m. shifts’ minimum number of cops down to four, the 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. shifts down to six each, and the 3 a.m. shift down to three.
Only the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shifts saw more officers out on the street than the bare minimum, and one shift – the 10 p.m. – actually had less than the minimum, probably because of office duty or some other issue.
Flash back to early June 2007, and the numbers are nearly double. The 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. shifts all were required to have at least 10 cops out on patrol throughout the east police district, and some actually saw more than the minimum out on patrol, up to 12 officers. The 3 a.m. had five officers, up two from the present levels.
While the western district also experienced some minor reductions in staffing levels, the changes were not nearly as drastic as in the east, where through June 8 of this year there had been 420 total crimes versus the west’s 284.
The 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. shifts in the west in June of 2007 saw a minimum level of eight officers, the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shifts, 12, the 10 p.m. 11, and the 3 a.m., six. Fast forward to the present and the numbers have dropped to six for the 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. period, eight for the 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m., and four for the 3 a.m.
The means that while the east police district, with its greatly elevated crime levels, saw its minimum staffing levels for all six shifts drop from 35 to 19, in the same time period the less crime-plagued west district saw a cut of 37 to 26.
Mr. Santiago, at a civic meeting last, said he has “succeeded in getting more cops out on the streets” than any of his predecessors. Well Mr. Santiago, these numbers certainly do not reflect that.
A truly scary situation occurred in April when an officer on duty responded to a homicide in the complex of crime-plagued housing projects off of Stuyvesant Avenue, and it bears directly on this whole issue of waning police presence and Mr. Santiago’s wasteful use of Trenton cops.
The victim had already expired, after having his head blown clean off by a murderer’s bullet, but only a handful of officers were able to respond because of Trenton’s Santiago-endorsed staffing reductions.
An ever-growing crowd of irritated project residents began chanting at the officers, apparently because they believed the victim was still alive and the police were not doing anything to help him with his “worsening” medical condition.
The officers and a group of paramedics actually began doing CPR on the murdered man, out of fear that the explosive situation could become violent due to the low number of officers on the scene and the growing number of angered observers.
At this sensitive moment one of Mr. Santiago’s response time-obsessed dispatchers contacted a Sgt. Tony Manzo on the scene and told him to report to the scene of another crime of much less significance. The officer – obviously a little stressed out – told the dispatcher that he was busy, and that if he had a problem they could “take it outside” back at the station.
No longer enjoying the favor of the former director meant that the “take it outside” comment was used by Mr. Santiago as an excuse to order a psychological evaluation, desk duties, and administrative charges.
Equally disturbing was that Internal Affairs officers allegedly spent hours of overtime work listening to the dispatch tape.
All this, while Trenton is seeing reduced levels of cops out on the streets. Thanks Mr. Santiago.