KPD: Understaffed and under pressure

Kearny police blotter — continued from print edition in its entirety. 

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY — Elsewhere in this week’s Observer is an article by my colleague Ron Leir reporting the hiring of 12 new Kearny police recruits — which will bring the department up to 107 officers when the rookies complete their their academy training in December.

Leir also cites KPD Chief John Dowie, who noted that if calls for service continue at the current rate, the 2017 end-of-year total will be significantly higher than 2016’s.

Each week, your correspondent sits down with the chief to obtain information for the blotter — and we’ll get to those reports later — but last week’s meeting also produced some disquieting statistics concerning the current workload.

“As of Friday (July 14),” Dowie noted, the KPD had handled “1,500 more jobs” than had been recorded by July 14, 2016. “So far this year,” he said, “the total stands at 17,100, which puts us on track for 32,000-33,000 for 2017.”

The 2016 tally was 28,000.

According to Dowie, the state had recommended a total of just 92 officers for the KPD, “but the mayor and Council saw fit” to increase it. The chief himself recommends a minimum of 110.

Ten years ago, he said, the KPD was at a high of 122 officers and the annual workload was 23,000-24,000 jobs. Today, the number of arrests and calls for service are “skyrocketing.”

On the night of Saturday, July 8, in less than a two-hour period, KPD officers made five arrests — which necessitated the calling in of off-duty cops because everyone else was busy with bookings and required paperwork for each incident.

On that same night, Dowie said, the 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. shift answered 75 documented calls for service (e.g., medical, domestic, traffic complaints, MV accidents, etc.)

The July 8 arrest tsunami began at 9 p.m., when Walmart security advised that two individuals suspected of past thefts of bicycles from an outdoor display were back. Officer David Bush responded and spotted one of the men in front of the store with a backpack from which protruded a pair of bolt cutters, police said. (The bikes are bolted to the display.)

Bush and backup Officers Jason Rodrigues, Jonathan Dowie and Sgt. Chris Levchak detained, searched and arrested the suspect on charges of shoplifting, possession of a prescription drug (four cyclobenzaprine pills), possession of drug paraphernalia and of burglary tools.
At headquarters, police said, the man gave his name as Dashon Ragland, but a fingerprint check showed him to be Sean Gary, 48, of Newark, who was then also charged with hindering apprehension — and on an Essex County Sheriff’s no-bail burglary warrant.

Also taken into custody near Walmart was Gary’s alleged co-conspirator, Donald Coleman, 52, of Newark, who had attempted to flee the area, police said.

Coleman was charged with shoplifting, CDS possession (one Xanax pill) and on two shoplifting warrants: Bloomfield, $315; Elizabeth, $150.

  • ••

At 9:30 p.m., responding to a report of a male-female fight at Kearny and Johnston Aves., Officers Richard Pawlowski and Chris Manolis sorted out the disturbance but also recognized William Kearney, 22, of Kearny, and arrested him on a $150 town traffic warrant.

  • ••

July 8’s fourth arrest came after Kmart security, 15 minutes later, reported that a shoplifting suspect had fled and was running toward Bergen Ave.

Officer Rodrigues, still a distance away, was the only on-duty unit still available, but fortunately Officer Jordenson Jean was on off-duty detail at ShopRite, heard the radio transmission and headed to the area, where he caught Kelvin Speight, 51, of Newark.

ID’d by security and turned over to Rodrigues, police said, Speight was charged with shoplifting and on two warrants for the same crime: Linden, $1,000 (full) and Paramus, $500 (full).

  • ••

At 10:45 p.m., Sgt. Levchak and Officers  Manolis and Andre Fernandes responded to a report of a beating taking place outside ShopRite, where they found a bleeding 63-year-old Newark man. Arrested in the store was Rahmele Mincey, 18, of Newark, who allegedly had punched the victim several times in the face during a personal dispute. Kearny EMS treated the victim at scene, but police said he refused transport to a hospital. Mincey, however, after being booked at HQ for simple assault, was taken to St.  Michael’s Medical Center for treatment of a cut lip.

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

July 9

At 7:20 p.m., Officer Dowie stopped a seatbeltless driver operating a Pennsylvania-registered 2017 Jeep on the Belleville Pike, reportedly detected the odor of pot and, with Officers Bush, Rodrigues and Michael Gontarczuk as back-up, asked the occupants to step from the vehicle. The driver, a 34-year-old North Bergen man, was eventually sent on his way with just a summons for the seatbelt violation, but his two passengers, both from Bayonne, were arrested.

Cassidy Denino, 21, was charged with possession of a prescription-legend drug (six tablets of levetiracetam) and drug paraphernalia; Brandon Vanderweeden, 20, with possession of weed and paraphernalia.

July 11

At 11 p.m., Officer Mina Ekladious saw a man and woman walking south on Chestnut St. from Woodland Ave. and then, as the woman continued to stroll, the man — whom the officer recognized — reportedly tried to conceal himself behind a parked car. Ekladious advised HQ and, with backup Officer Jose Perez, confronted the not very well-hidden George Torres, 45, of East Newark, who allegedly made the spontaneous utterance: “Officer, I know you’re stopping me about the phone I borrowed yesterday from the liquor store.”

Torres would have been arrested anyway, because police said he had a no-bail Essex County Sheriff/NCIC  contempt warrant, but at HQ he was questioned about the phone, which he reportedly had lifted from the store counter and hidden in the laundry room at his residence. Police said he escorted officers to that location, where the phone was found and activated, allowing the cops to contact its owner, a 41-year-old Kearny woman.

Police said she came to HQ to retrieve the device but “was not interested in pursuing any further charges.” Torres, though, was still held on the warrant and Essex County was notified.

July 12

At 7:30 p.m., Officer Bush observed a couple walking north on Highland Ave. near Johnston Ave. apparently passing a hand-rolled marijuana cigar back and forth.  As Bush approached on foot, the female, Ann Torres, 38, of Kearny, attempted to push the cigar into her pants pocket, “hopefully extinguishing it first,” police said. She did, however, then turn it over to Bush, police said, and both she and her companion, Dylan Gogolen, 34, of Belleville, were arrested for possession of pot and paraphernalia.

Both were booked at HQ, and Gogolen was then able to leave, but Torres was held in custody on three Kearny township-ordinance warrants: one with $50 full bail, and two with $500 (or 10%) bail.

As a KPD source told The Observer, “In one of the most gallant acts of chivalry on record, when Gogolen was released, he scoured the town and returned with $150 to free her.”

[Editor’s note: “Sir Gogolen” does have a nice medieval ring to it.]

Karen Zautyk | Observer Correspondent