In keeping with its practice of transparency involving public safety matters, the City of Hackensack is releasing the findings of a newly completed audit into the Hackensack Police Department’s overtime, compensatory time, extra-duty traffic detail and time-related record-keeping practices. This audit, prepared by Presage Integrated Solutions LLC, reported a pattern of troubling practices involving a number of the HPD’s most senior officers between January 1, 2020 through July 31, 2022, and provides further detail into concerns first uncovered in mid-2022 when the City commissioned a full review into the HPD’s operations by R3 Strategies and Solutions, authored by a former Bergen County Chief of Detectives.
“The data in this report confirms what we already knew about the major lack of accountability and oversight within some at the upper ranks of our Police Department that contributed to an atmosphere of disregard for its core mission,” said Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse. “We have the utmost confidence in our new Police Director Raymond Guidetti’s ability to spearhead the ongoing reform effort within the Department to ensure the people of Hackensack are provided with the public safety they deserve, and the progress that has already been made is helping restore trust in the community.”
This most recent audit, prepared by a team of former law enforcement and fraud investigators, focused on 17 of the HPD’s highest-ranking officers and found that during the 31-month period prior to July 31, 2022, these 17 officers worked nearly 1,800 extra-duty traffic details and earned an estimated $1 million in extra compensation. Although extra-duty traffic details when properly managed are generally recognized as an appropriate public safety measure, the audit found that a number of the HPD’s most senior officers engaged in behaviors that appeared to reflect a concerted effort by many of these individuals to generate extra income for themselves notwithstanding the public safety needs of the City’s residents, businesses and visitors.
These problematic behaviors included splitting shifts, where senior officers would leave their assignments during the beginning or middle of their shifts in order to work an extra-duty detail at additional pay before returning to duty whenever most convenient for them, in violation of their contract with the City; regularly changing work schedules to maximize the number of extra-duty details worked, resulting in irregular and inconsistent attendance by the HPD’s command staff; and overlapping shifts, where officers manipulated extra-duty detail scheduling in order to be paid for working both an extra-duty detail and their regular work assignment at the same time (a.k.a. “double-dipping”). These behaviors occurred many hundreds of times during the period under review.
Other troubling practices, such as swapping sick time for compensatory time, were also detailed in the Presage audit, which noted poor record-keeping during the period under review presented a particular challenge in conducting the analysis. Under New Jersey law, payroll information, specifically including those records that reflect when an employee worked and the circumstances under which compensation is earned, are considered to be public records.
In mid-2022, after the City received the R3 report, which revealed numerous deficiencies at the Police Department including a lack of capable leadership, a precipitous drop in arrests despite a stable number of calls for service, and a dramatic increase in overtime, the City’s Governing Body hired veteran law enforcement professional Raymond Guidetti as the City’s new Police Director. Director Guidetti immediately assumed oversight of the extra-duty detail program and implemented new procedures, such as retaining the respected extra-duty police scheduling system known as “Jobs4Blue,” and prohibiting many of the most problematic practices that were ongoing prior to his retention. However, until the Presage audit was completed, it was unclear as to the full extent of questionable conduct and inadequate timekeeping practices.
“The R3 report gave us a general idea of the problems in the Hackensack Police Department existing before I was appointed,” said Director Guidetti. “The Presage audit has given us a more focused analysis along with a series of important recommendations that will guide us as we continue to reform our practices and work towards becoming a model law enforcement agency.”
Director Guidetti added that “when senior officers may be perceived as taking advantage of a non-transparent system, it creates a situation where morale problems will occur because newer officers making far less have less opportunities to earn additional compensation. That is why notwithstanding the concerns raised by this audit, since I have started working for the City just over a year ago, I have seen a Department where the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are supporting the reforms we are now implementing. What I have personally observed is a hunger to move beyond the troubled past and to eventually be seen as an exceptional department in Bergen County and even the entire state.”
Among the many reforms that have taken place in the last year are prioritizing public safety; assessing the allocation of resources; increasing hiring and promotions; re-instituting regular command meetings; evaluating and instituting department-wide accountability practices; implementing cutting-edge technologies to measure effectiveness, sharing information to better understand crime and support investigations; instituting a community engagement capability; raising the capabilities of its Office of Professional Standards; and implementing policies, procedures, and technologies regarding timekeeping practices. Additional key reforms that have already been implemented include taking former President Obama’s “Re-imagine Policing Pledge” and implementing body cameras well before most other municipal police departments in Bergen County.
The City will also be forwarding the Presage report to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office as well as the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office with the expectation that they will independently look into the new and concerning information uncovered in this report and thereafter take whatever remedial action may be appropriate with respect to any law enforcement officer who may have placed their personal interests above those of the public.