Officers hired; promotions spark debate

Staff Writer

The Edison Police Department has eight new police officers, and eight existing officers have been promoted.

“I welcome our much-needed new officers,” Police Chief Thomas Bryan said. “They all come with experience, which enables us to deploy them more quickly into our community, where they will be utilized on patrol and to answer all calls to service.”

Bryan said the new officers bring the department to a total of 167 sworn officers. He said he would like the department to be at 188 officers, which was the case prior to 2010.

“Our department should be at least at 200,” he said.

Daniel Bradley comes to the department from the Union County Sheriff’s Department; Ramonita Cardoso from the Rutgers University Police Department at the Newark campus; Maurice DuRose from the East Orange Police Department; Christopher Gadomski from the New Jersey Institute of Technology Police Department; Darren Hutchinson from the East Orange Police Department; Robert Jordan from the Cranford Police Department; James Panagoulakos from the Camden County Police Department; and Neel Patel from the Franklin Township Police Department.

The promotions, which occurred at a Nov. 8 ceremony, came as a bit of a surprise to Bryan, who said he only learned of them hours before they occurred. The issue also brought about dialogue at the Township Council meeting on Nov. 13.

Capts. Mark Anderko and Bruce Polkowitz were promoted to deputy chief; Acting Capt. Natale Fresco was promoted to captain; Lt. Donald Merker was promoted to captain; Acting Lt. Edward Wheeler was promoted to lieutenant; Sgt. Fredrick Huth was promoted to lieutenant; Acting Lt. Louis J. Kirsh was promoted to lieutenant; and Sgt. Robert J. Leoniy was promoted to lieutenant. Township Council members questioned what they characterized as the hasty nature of the promotions. Bryan said that although he found out about the promotions just before they occurred, he had his secretary send out an invitation to the ceremony through the township’s mass email.

Councilman Sudhanshu Prasad said it is a sad state of affairs that the council was not invited in good time.

“Some of us would like to be there to congratulate them in person,” he said.

Mayor Antonia Ricigliano said the hiring of the new police officers and the promotions were not done in haste or in a vacuum.

She said that for the last several months, she has made the push for the council to pass an ordinance that would substantially reform the hiring and promotional practices in the Police Department. The move has collectively garnered the backing of Bryan, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and former Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

The ordinance is currently tabled and under review by the council.

In July, acting positions were made in the department to fill vacancies and to better help the chief deploy his officers. These were cleared by the county prosecutor’s office.

In March, Anderko and Polkowitz were moved up from lieutenant to captain, and now the two men are the deputy chiefs of the department.

Ricigliano said that with Capt. David Pemberton retiring by Dec. 1, the department will have a total of five captains. With the retirement of Joseph Vasta as lieutenant on Dec. 1, the department will have 15 permanent lieutenants.

She said that with more unanticipated retirements this year, the township was able to hire four more police officers. The salaries for all these positions are included in the current budget.

As for the alleged hastiness, Ricigliano said discussions with the chief regarding new hires began in June, when the interview and background-check process began.

“These would have been made much sooner,” she said, adding that it was not until the Friday before the general election that she received word from the chief that they were able to move on the ceremony.

“I asked for Thursday, and the chief said Friday would be better, so I accommodated,” she said.

Bryan did not comment on the promotions.