Frustrated Newark police recruits go weeks without pay, sources say

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 10, 2015

As of Thursday morning, a class of 62 Newark police recruits had yet to be paid for their first four weeks of work, sources say.

 

NEWARK —  As of Thursday morning, the members of the latest class of Newark Police Department trainees had yet to be paid despite four weeks of work, NJ Advance Media has learned.

Multiple sources familiar with the situation confirmed that two pay periods have come and gone since the 62 recruits began training in Passaic County on November 5, with none receiving paychecks, the sources said.

In a Dec. 7 response to inquiries about the paycheck issue, city business administrator Jack Kelly initially said he was unaware of the payment delay. In an emailed response sent to NJ Advance Media the following day, Kelly said "I believe manual checks are being processed today."

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday morning confirmed that paychecks were processed and that the city had issued each recruit a lump payment for the weeks they'd gone unpaid.

A source close to the situation told NJ Advance Media that the checks were scheduled to be delivered by hand to the recruits on Thursday afternoon.

The exact reason for the delay remains unclear. "It is very unfortunate the city's police recruits were not paid in a timely fashion, however, they have all been paid since the issue was brought to my attention," Kelly said in a statement emailed Thursday afternoon

City staffers have been assigned to determine the reason for the delay, and to "make recommendations to improve the process," Kelly said.

The checks, when they do arrive, could come just in time to keep frustration among the police recruits from boiling over.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one member of the class told NJ Advance Media that the recruits were assured by officials that checks for the entirety of their November pay would be issued on December 4, the scheduled pay day.

When the checks did not arrive, members of the class openly began complaining about the delay, the recruit said. Unable to pay their personal bills, some began to discuss the possibility of leaving the police department, the recruit added.

"We all want to be here to serve the city, that's why we signed up," the recruit said. "But everyone is sort of feeling like this is ridiculous. We're working really hard, and we're not seeing the reward for all of our sweat."

James Stewart Jr., president of the city's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the payment delay "disgusting."

"It is incredible to me that the city hired 60 recruits, with much fanfare, and lets them languish for weeks without so much as a dime," he said.

A 2007 class of recruits worked for a month before receiving their pay, Stewart said. Officers receiving their regular pay has never been an issue otherwise, Stewart said. "I don't recall any other serious problems, although they haven't hired many recruits since 2008," he added.

The 62 recruits are the latest additions to a department strained by significant staff reductions. Since coming to office, Mayor Ras Baraka has made bolstering the department's ranks one of his chief priorities.

Last year, Baraka announced a plan to graduate as many as 250 new Newark officers from various New Jersey police academies by June of 2016, and dozens of new officers have joined the department in the months since.

The 62 recruits receiving training in Passaic County are scheduled to graduate in May 2016.

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