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Category: Police & Fire News

Heck of a way to get home


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


The mercury had dropped to near-freezing last Friday night, Nov. 14, as Christopher Russell was walking through Hudson County’s West Hudson Park in the Harrison portion of the park.

According to police, he was inebriated and he was cold, but, most of all, he wanted to get to his home in Newark’s Ironbound section.

So, police said, the 30-yearold Russell made his way through some temporary orange plastic mesh fencing surrounding a construction site in West Hudson Park off Davis Ave. and climbed into the cab of an idle excavator.

Finding no key in the ignition but making use of prior experience as a mechanic, Russell grabbed one of his own keys, jammed it into the ignition and managed to get the motor started, said Harrison Police Capt. Michael Green.

As the heavy-duty vehicle lurched forward, trampling the fencing, county spokesman Jim Kennelly said, “The driver of the vehicle circulated through the park to the east of the Davis Ave. bridge project and caused damage to various park furniture, including a drinking fountain, a protective bollard and three concrete and wood slat park benches.

“A small tree was uprooted during this time, and a park picnic bench was dragged for a short distance but appeared to be undamaged. Tracks left by the vehicle were evident but not damaging to the overall landscape. No park sidewalks or paved areas outside of the construction limits were observed to have been damaged.

“Damage caused within the construction area included temporary fencing, a second piece of construction equipment, the roadway subgrade, part of the parapet wall and other small materials stored on the site.”

Kennelly couldn’t say how much the wreckage would cost to fix.

Police said Russell also drove the vehicle over several temporary fences and a ball field next to the bridge construction site.

Meanwhile, the next phase of Russell’s abbreviated trip found the driver maneuvering outside the park – where witnesses spotted him on Cross St. and on Hamilton St., just west of Davis, where police ultimately stopped him, shortly after 9 p.m., according to Green.

As an officer approached, police said Russell blurted out, “It was me; yup, it was me.” As he spoke, police said, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from the cab and, inside, he observed an open container of Southern Comfort whiskey.

Police said Russell told the officer he only stopped because he thought he hit a parked car, which, according to police, he did. It was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked on Davis Ave., whose owner was notified.

Police impounded the excavator temporarily before releasing it to its owner, listed as A-Tech Concrete Co. of Edison. Police said the vehicle was valued at $25,000.

Russell was charged with DWI, DWI within 1,000 feet of a school, theft of movable property, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of an accident involving property.

He was transported to the Hudson County Jail on $20,000 bail, with a 10% cash option, set by Municipal court Judge Kenneth Lindenfelser, pending court action.

90 displaced by 3-alarm blaze


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 


A three-alarm fire in an apartment building on Beech St. at the Belleville Pike on Sunday afternoon displaced 90 residents, but everyone was evacuated safely, authorities reported.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the blaze broke out in a third-floor apartment at 425 Beech at 3:58 p.m. and was under control by 4:57 p.m. Along with the KFD, firefighters from North Arlington, Harrison, Jersey City and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue were at the scene.

One woman was rescued from a fire escape by KFD Capt. Gary Dye and FF Bill Crockett. Other occupants of the 41-unit, five-story brick building were evacuated, many with the help of the Kearny Police Officers Frank West and Chris Levchak, Dyl noted.

No injuries were reported, and firefighters noted that “multiple cats” were also rescued.

One of the factors aiding the evacuation was the existence of fire doors in the building’s hallways, Dyl said. “These helped control the smoke,” allowing residents to escape safely.

The Red Cross found temporary shelter for five of the displaced tenants, but the rest reportedly were staying with friends or relatives. As of Monday morning, no one had yet been allowed to return, pending a safety inspection.

The unit where the fire started was severely damaged, Dyl said, with some minor damage to the apartment above.

The cause is under investigation.

OCI will reopen, owners say


By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Akitchen fire sent about 30 customers scurrying out of a popular Nutley pub last Saturday evening, Nov. 15.

Cause of the blaze at the Old Canal Inn, 2 E. Passaic Ave., which went to two alarms, is listed as “accidental,” triggered by an issue related to “ventilation of cooking equipment,” according to Nutley Deputy Fire Chief Paul Cafone.

No injuries to firefighters or civilians were reported, he said.

The bar and rear dining area remain shuttered for now but Mark Conca, who owns and runs the place with brothers Phil, Ralph and Danny, has pledged to restore it and reopen as soon as they can.

“We hope to get the front bar open in seven to 10 days,” Conca said last week. “But the kitchen and restaurant, we’re talking maybe three to six months. The Nutley and Bloomfield firefighters confined the fire to the back of the building and that’s what saved us.”

Cafone said the fire started in the kitchen area, above the ceiling between the “void” (concealed) space and the roof and then spread into the rear dining room between the ceiling and the roof.

Fire damage was pretty much confined to the kitchen area and the rear dining room.

Tenants who live above the bar in the four-family, three-story wood frame structure were compelled to evacuate their apartments after the building was deemed uninhabitable by the township’s code enforcement unit but, eventually, they were allowed to return after fire inspections of apartments were made during the week, according to Cafone.

Cafone said that the initial alarm of fire came in at 5:49 p.m. through central station and the Nutley career firefighters responded aboard an engine and a ladder truck while the Nutley fire volunteers arrived in two engines.

Nutley Fire Lt. Chris Loman, who was among the first responders, quickly called in a second alarm and, Bloomfield Fire Department – summoned under the township’s mutual aid agreement – came with an engine and ladder truck, Cafone said.

Fire units from Montclair and Lyndhurst provided stand-by service, he added.

Cafone estimated that, all told, 41 firefighters from Nutley and Bloomfield fought the blaze which was declared under control by 7:30 p.m.

PSE&G sent a crew to shut off the utilities in the building , he said.

Despite the hardship that’s befallen the tavern, Mark Conca took some solace in the fact that the fire started when it did. “We had a full house of dinner reservations scheduled for a 7:30 [p.m.] serving,” he said, noting that the situation could’ve been a lot worse if the fire had broken out then.

The pub building is believed to be over 100 years old and has been operating as a tavern, at least since 1934 when members of the Skorupski family of Bloomfield took it over until selling it to the Conca brothers in 2011.

Part of the property straddles the Bloomfield border and it is said that the bar’s shuffleboard court, technically, sits on the Bloomfield property line.

Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco, himself a business owner, said he empathized for the owners who, he said, were “childhood friends.”

Conca insisted that he and his brothers were committed to “restore OCI.”

3 rescued in Beech St. house fire


By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


The Kearny Fire Department, responding to a Beech St. house fire last Thursday evening, had the blaze knocked down in 20 minutes, but not before rescuing three residents who were trapped on the front-porch roof.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl credited KFD dispatcher Brian McCurrie with keeping the three from panicking while they awaited help. “The 911 call came in directly to the department, and he [McCurrie] stayed on the phone with the caller, who was on the roof, and was able to keep them calm until firefighters rescued them,” Dyl said.

The two women and a man, who had fled to their precarious perch from the second-floor residence, were safely brought down by Firefighters Victor Girdwood and Ron Protokowicz, Dyl said.

Two men in the first-floor apartment had managed to escape on their own.

The fire in the two-story, wood-frame home at 47 Beech, between Oakwood and Quincy Aves., was reported at 7:09 p.m. and was out by 7:25, Dyl said, but, due to flame, smoke and water damage, the residents all had to find other shelter.

Two of the victims were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and minor lacerations.

The blaze is believed to have started in the front room on the first floor, but the exact cause is under investigation by KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan.

The roof rescue was not the only one credited to Girdwood and Protokowicz. While they were searching the interior of the house, they saw a small dog run into a first-floor room and found him hiding behind a TV. They coaxed him out and carried the frightened pup, who was shaking as they held him, to safety.

Black ice creates havoc


November temperatures, half-a-month overdue, arrived with a vengeance last week, bringing with them that bane of winter travel: black ice.

Between 6 a.m. and noon on Tuesday, Nov. 18, the KPD recorded nine motor vehicle accidents — eight of them in South Kearny — all involving black ice.

In the first crash, which occurred on Fish House Road, Officer Steven Hroncich suffered head, neck and back injuries when his patrol car was read-ended by a DMS Express truck, Chief John Dowie reported. The patrol car was deemed “totalled” and was towed to headquarters, where it sits in the police yard.

Dowie said there were “severe icing conditions” on the road at the time and a request was made to Hudson County to come and salt it.

The subsequent accidents occurred at 6:12 a.m. on Harrison Ave.; 6:14 on Fish House; 7:33 on Harrison; 7:44 on Fish House; 8:05 on Harrison; 8:12 on Rt. 1/9; 10 (there was a lull) on Jacobus Ave.; 11:45 at Kearny and Bergen Aves., and at noon on Pennsylvania Ave. in South Kearny.

But that didn’t end the motor vehicle havoc.

Although ice did not necessarily play a role, additional accidents on that day were reported at 3:30 p.m. at Bergen Ave. and Belgrove Drive; 3:49 on Kearny Ave.; 6:45 on Rt. 1/9 and 11:20 on Harrison Ave.

Aside from those to Hroncich, there reportedly were no serious injuries.

– Karen Zautyk 

KPD: Mother knows best

A teenage auto-theft suspect who led police on both a car chase and a foot chase ended up cooling his heels in the Hudson County Youth House last week, KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

The adventure began at 4:20 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16, when the KPD issued a BOLO that a 1998 beige Lexus had just been stolen from the area of Kearny and Quincy Aves. Moments later, Officer Daniel Esteves spotted the vehicle and attempted to stop it at Belgrove Drive and Woodland Ave., but it fled south on Belgrove, police said.

Esteves pursued it along Belgrove to Sheridan Ave. to Johnston Ave., where the driver attempted to turn west and struck a parked car. At that point, police said, the thief abandoned the Lexus and began fleeing on foot east on Johnston, down Grant Ave., across Belgrove, along Clark St. and then on a “serpentine route” through the Gen. Kearny apartment complex. Esteves, also on foot, was after him the entire way.

Backup Officer Luis Moran, who had arrived on Belgrove, saw the youth attempting to hide in some bushes on the apartment grounds.

The suspect then feigned compliance with the officers, but had to be forcibly cuffed by both, police said. At headquarters, he allegedly lied about his identity, but it was confirmed that he was a 16-year-old from Kearny.

Dowie said the youth’s mother was contacted but she told police she would not come to HQ to take custody of him and that they should “put him in jail.”

“Her sentiments were relayed to Hudson County Juvenile Intake,” the chief said, “and he was remanded to the Youth House.”

The teen has been charged with auto theft, eluding police, resisting arrest and hindering apprehension by lying.

• • •

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

Nov. 14 

Officer Patrick Becker responded to ShopRite at 4 p.m. to take into custody Jose Rodriguez, 52, of Newark, who had allegedly attempted to shoplift: a canned ham, two cans of coffee, two haircutting kits, some Irish Spring soap and a loaf of bread. In a search incident to arrest, police said, he was found to be in possession of six Xanax pills and a hypodermic needle – and to be wanted on two $5,000 Newark warrants. He was charged on all the offenses.

• • •

At 4:30 p.m., Officer Esteves was on patrol when he saw two cars stopped on Passaic Ave. near Ross Lane. One driver, Kevin Flores, 25, of East Orange, reportedly admitted that his BMW had rear-ended the other vehicle, a Honda operated by a Belleville woman, as he was trying to retrieve something he had dropped in his car. Police said a check of his credentials showed that his license was suspended and that he had three warrants – from Lyndhurst, Fairfield and Totowa — all for driving while suspended. He now has a fourth such charge, along with a summons for following too closely.

Nov. 15 

At 6 p.m., Esteves stopped a GMC SUV with no rear lights at Davis Ave. and Tappan St. He reportedly detected the odor of marijuana and, in plain view on the center console, saw a smoking pipe and a clear container of suspected pot.

Jorge Rojas, 37, of Kearny, was charged with possession of the drug and paraphernalia, and driving while suspended, and received a summons for the lights violation.

• • •

At 8 p.m., a 45-year-old Lyndhurst woman was putting items into her car in in the Kmart lot when she was punched in the back by a man wearing a black ski mask who then grabbed her purse and ran to a maroon-colored getaway vehicle.

Police said the victim was not hurt. Officer Moran took the initial report, and Det. Scott Traynor is conducting the follow-up investigation.

Nov. 16 

At 3 a.m., after the KPD had closed the Belleville Pike due to a vehicle fire, Officer Ben Wuelfing was guiding a firetruck through the blockade when he saw that it was being followed closely by a Nissan Maxima, whose driver was talking on a cell phone. After repeated signals, police said, he finally got the car to stop and, when questioned, the driver reportedly replied that she “didn’t see a firetruck.”

After FSTs and an Alcotest at HQ , Angelica Cruz, 26, of Jersey City, was charged with DWI, reckless driving, driving on a closed roadway and use of a hand-held phone while driving.

Nov. 17 

Officer Jordenson Jean, patrolling at Midland Ave. and Forest St. at 1 a.m., saw 30-year-old Kearny resident Alexander Harkes reportedly peering into parked cars. Police said a field inquiry revealed he was wanted on a drug-related Newark warrant. He was taken into custody, and the Newark PD was notified.

• • •

Investigating a 7:30 p.m. accident at Kearny and Bergen Aves., Officer Jay Ward found that a Dodge pickup, operated by James Ryan, 46, of East Newark, had struck a Honda that was stopped in traffic. Ryan, given FSTs and an Alcotest, was charged with DWI, reckless driving and following too closely. His truck was impounded.

• • •

At 11 p.m., Officers Ward, Steven Hroncich and Chris Medina responded to a report that, on the 40 block of Kearny Ave., a woman had been threatened by an acquaintance who allegedly had a gun. After speaking with the woman, they went to another Kearny Ave. address supplied by her to interview 33-year-old Luis Torres of Kearny. When confronted, he reportedly gave a fictitious name but was subsequently identified by Det. Ray Lopez. No weapon was found, but Torres was charged with obstructing the administration of law, hindering apprehension and on an outstanding East Newark warrant.

Nov. 18 

Officers Brian Wisely, Kevin Arnesman, Chris Levchak and Frank West went to Kearny and Stewart Aves. at 2:10 p.m. on a report of a heated “lovers’ quarrel” taking place in the intersection outside Roosevelt School. According to police, a 34-year-old Newark woman, who works in the area, said she had been confronted by Jason Smith, 34, of New York City, who pushed her to the ground and then fled. He was apprehended as he attempted to board a bus

In a search incident to arrest on an assault charge, Smith was reportedly found to have two bags of suspected cocaine and was also charged with possession of the drug and paraphernalia. In addition, police said, he was wanted on a Jersey City warrant.

Nov. 19 

At 10:30 p.m., Officer Michael Santucci responded to a Belleville Pike warehouse, where the owner and manager reported that two employees who had been unloading a trailer attempted to steal 20 dress shirts, priced at $50 each — and that one had even put on a shirt under his work clothes.

Arrested on charges of theft and conspiracy were Diomedes Gomera, 46, of Union City, and Marcio Miranda, 46, of North Bergen. In addition to the shirts, police said, four bottles of “Sexy Lover” perfume were found secreted in the trailer.

 – Karen Zautyk 

Merchant stuck with fake bills & more: NPD blotter

A Franklin Ave. business in Nutley was the apparent victim of a counterfeit sting. The business representative informed Nutley PD that a woman walked into the shop last Saturday, Nov. 15, and asked for a prepaid credit card and said she needed $900 loaded onto the card.

Police said an employee completed the transaction and received nine $100 bills from the woman who then hurriedly left the store.

Belatedly discovering that the bills were reportedly phony, the employee tried to catch up to the woman outside the store but couldn’t stop her in time, police said.

Police said the phone number used for the transaction was found not to be in service.

The woman was described as African-American, age 40s to 50s, over 200 pounds, 5-feet-six to 5-feet-eight, with blonde corn rolls tied up in a bun, wearing glasses worn low on the bridge of her nose.

Detectives are investigating.

Nutley PD also logged the following incidents reported between Nov. 15 and 21:

Nov. 15 

Cesar Lazo, 30, of California, was arrested at Kingsland St. and Bloomfield Ave. on a warrant from Belmar. He was transferred to the custody of Belmar PD who, in turn, released him pending a new court date.


Someone stole a 16G 2nd Generation iPad with a black and red case from a vehicle parked on William St., the victims told police. The victims reported that they left their truck to accept a donation for the Salvation Army and when they returned, the iPad was gone.


A Daily St. resident reported someone made fraudulent charges totaling about $1,000 on their American Express card. Police advised the resident to check their credit reports and alert their credit card company’s fraud department.

Nov. 16 

A Hillside Ave. resident told police someone pelted their car with eggs while it was parked during the night. Other than the mess, the car wasn’t damaged, the resident said.

Nov. 17 

Multiple police units converged on a Baltimore St. location on a report of a motor vehicle accident where a driver was allegedly trying to get away. When officers arrived, police said they instructed the driver, Roberto Candelaria, 25, of Carteret, to exit but they said he ignored them and displayed combative behavior at HQ. He was charged with possession of marijuana under 50 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct and was ticketed for violations of DWI, possession of CDS in a motor vehicle, reckless driving, failure to wear seatbelt and tinted windows. Police said a resident’s fence was damaged and a fire hydrant dislodged as a result of the accident.


A motor vehicle stop on Franklin Ave. led to the arrest of Emmanuel Ndupu, 62, of Hillside, on an active warrant from Newark. Ndupu was also issued a summons for unregistered vehicle. He was turned over to the custody of Newark PD.


Police said a phone scam was perpetrated on a Vreeland Ave. resident who got a call from “Team Viewer” warning that their computer was about to crash but that if the resident paid for their services, they could help fix the problem. Police said the resident sent an electronic payment of $399 to “cash” from their checking account but, after checking with police, the resident contacted their bank and managed to stop payment. Police said the resident told them their computer was frozen and could have been hacked. Police advised them to contact a PC repair person.

Nov. 18 

A fraud victim walked into HQ to report that someone had sent $180 by Western Union using their Wells Fargo Visa card. Police said the money was sent and picked up in Chicago but the Visa card never left the victim’s possession. The victim’s bank was advised and a new account number was issued.


A Lakeside Ave. resident reported that someone stole three street trees from along their driveway. Each tree was valued at $50.


A resident alerted police to an apparent phone scam. The resident said a man called to say that their brother was involved in an accident and that the resident had to pay for the damages or the caller would kill the brother. Police tried calling back the number provided but it came back as a mailbox not yet set up.

Nov. 19 

A victim of criminal mischief reported to police that when they left Nutley Municipal Court, they noticed a large key mark on the driver’s side of their parked vehicle and suspected that their adversary in court may have been responsible. Police said they observed a fresh key mark from the driver’s side rear door and across the front door. After reviewing surveillance tape where an individual was seen walking alongside the vehicle where the damage occurred, police charged Richard Afflitto, 48, of Nutley, with criminal mischief, requiring a mandatory court appearance.


A motor vehicle stop on Bloomfield Ave. resulted in the arrest of Christopher Liloia, 26, of Nutley, on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly person.

Nov. 20 

A Mountainview Ave. resident reported that someone charged their credit card, without authorization, $2,093 for transactions made at a Restaurant Depot at an unknown location. The resident canceled the card.

Nov. 21 

A Charles St. resident reported an identity theft. The resident was notified by Capital One Bank about a possible fraudulent account opened in their name. No charges were made on the account, however.

– Ron Leir 

90 displaced by three-alarm Kearny fire on Sunday

Beech Street Fire (2)

Above: A woman awaits rescue on a fire escape at a Beech St. fire Sunday afternoon in Kearny. She was ultimately brought to safety without incident. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Taylor via Youtube).

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent


A three-alarm fire in an apartment building on Beech St. at the Belleville Pike on Sunday afternoon displaced 90 residents, but everyone was evacuated safely, authorities reported.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the blaze broke out in a third-floor apartment at 425 Beech St. at 3:58 p.m. and was under control by 4:57 p.m. Along with the KFD, firefighters from North Arlington, Harrison, Jersey City and North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue were at the scene.

One woman was rescued from a fire escape by KFD Capt. Gary Dye and FF Bill Crockett. Other occupants of the 41-unit, five-story brick building were evacuated, many with the help of Kearny Police Officers Frank West and Chris Levchak, Dyl noted.

No injuries were reported, and firefighters said “multiple cats” were also rescued.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Taylor via Youtube. A resident is helped down on a ladder at a Beech St. fire Sunday afternoon. Photo Courtesy of Andy Taylor via Youtube. A resident is helped down on a ladder at a Beech St. fire Sunday afternoon.

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Taylor via Youtube. A resident is helped down on a ladder at a Beech St. fire Sunday afternoon.

One of the factors aiding the evacuation was the existence of fire doors in the building’s hallways, Dyl said.

“These helped control the smoke,” allowing residents to escape safely, he said.

The Red Cross found temporary shelter for five of the displaced tenants, but the rest reportedly were staying with friends or relatives. As of Monday, no one had yet been allowed to return, pending a safety inspection.

The unit where the fire started was severely damaged, Dyl said, with some minor damage to the apartment above.

The cause is under investigation.

Nutley cops hunt driver in fatal hit-run

A photo (above) of the suspect van was released Nov. 19 by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.



Nutley police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating the motor vehicle that struck and killed a 77-year-old woman on Centre St. on Saturday morning and fled the scene.

Chief Thomas Strumolo said the victim, Ernesta Fernandez of Nutley, had been crossing Centre near Ravine Ave. at 11:40 a.m. when she was hit.

One witness described the vehicle as an older model, dark-colored Econoline van, possibly blue or black. The driver reportedly headed west on Centre St. and made a right turn onto Franklin Ave. Fernandez was found in the street and subsequently pronounced dead at University Hospital in Newark. P

olice are asking anyone who was in the area at the time and may have witnessed the accident to call the NPD at 973-284-4940 or the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force tips line at 1-877-847- 7432 or 1-877-TIPS-4-EC .

The Essex County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stoppers Program is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest.

– Karen Zautyk

Cop promotions upcoming


Kearny Police Chief John Dowie, who has repeatedly warned that his ranks are being stretched thin with a recent spate of retirements, will be getting some relief.

Dowie came away from last Wednesday night’s Town Council caucus with a tentative sign-off on his proposal for five promotions: one lieutenant and four sergeants, Mayor Alberto Santos said.

Based on the current promotional lists certified by the state, the lieutenant rank would go to current Sgt. Peter Caltabellotta, while the four new sergeants look to be current Officers Joseph Vulcano, Scott Traynor, John Corbett and Len Reed.

Before the chief’s recommendation can be implemented, however, the state monitor assigned to Kearny must sanction it, Santos said.

If he got the requested promotions, Dowie told the mayor and council members, he would then have enough personnel to staff the South Kearny Police Precinct on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

And, Dowie advised, filling in those ranks – while, at the same time, preparing to hire more rank-and-file cops – should help trim the massive overtime in the Police Department, which has topped $1 million for the year to date, according to town CFO Shuaib Firozvi.

Another sales point the chief served up was that additional four sergeants would bring that rank up to one below the optimum number of 19 called for in the Police Department’s Table of Organization while increasing the number of captains to the T.O. standard of nine.

Sergeants currently earn about $124,000 a year, plus health benefits, while lieutenants collect about $140,000, plus benefits. Santos and Dowie said the town should see some savings in the long run, however, because under the current PBA contract, it will take two years for superiors named after Jan. 1, 2013, to reach their maximum pay level.

The mayor and council have agreed in principle to hire up to 10 more rank-and-file cops, according to Dowie, who said the town should also see some savings down the road because it now takes 12 years for officers to reach their maximum pay grade.

A newly issued appointment list, as certified by the state Civil Service Commission, for police officer in Kearny triggered frustration voiced by a member of the Kearny PD during the public portion of Wednesday’s council meeting.

Det. Steven Podolski, a veteran member of the police force, spoke on behalf of 10 Kearny residents who applied to take the state Civil Service test for police officer and were upset about the process which involves a procedure mandated by U.S. District Court, dating from 1991, which stems from an NAACP lawsuit alleging that Kearny’s municipal hiring practices were discriminatory.

The court stipulated initially that, to achieve “racial diversity” in its employee mix, Kearny was compelled to establish an applicant pool drawn from residents of Kearny and Essex County. Kearny challenged that pool as too broad and unfair to its residents and in 2002 the court modified the territorial pool to Kearny and Newark residents.

Earlier this year, Santos said, things became muddled when in anticipating of hiring more cops, Kearny asked Civil Service to certify an updated appointment list and, in response, the mayor said, the agency inadvertently issued a Kearny resident-only list, reportedly containing the names of 75 Kearny residents as potential hirees.

Then, the mayor said, the agency ended up retracting that list and issued a new list with the names of only 16 Kearny residents and the balance from Newark. Some of the contingent that showed up Wednesday at Town Hall are no longer on the list while a few now find themselves farther down on the list, Podolski told the governing body.

Podolski reasoned that it makes more sense for the town to appoint Kearny residents, since cops who live in town will have more of a stake in keeping the town safer and will be more likely to spend their money in town.

“We agree that it’s important to hire local residents for security and economy reasons,” said Santos, “but unless there are changes in federal law that would allow us to challenge the consent decree that obligates us, we can’t ignore it.”

Meanwhile, the town is responding to other public safety needs. On Wednesday, the council voted to introduce a $2 million bond ordinance that would earmark $600,000 for the “acquisition of patrol sport utility vehicles with equipment” and $300,000 for “computer infrastructure and equipment” for the Police Department, along with $350,000 for “equipment and turnout gear” for the Fire Department.

Other projects to be funded from the bond – which must be approved by the state Local Finance Board – include “acquisition/installation of fiber optic and computer infrastructure town-wide” for $400,000 and acquisition of a “dump truck, a pickup truck and a utility van” for the Public Works Department.

The council also authorized the Fire Department to apply to the federal Assistance to Firefighters grant program for $950,000 toward the cost of a new aerial ladder truck and for $600,000 to subsidize acquisition of more than 40 self-contained oxygen packs. Each would require a 25% local match. Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the new rig would replace a 1990 truck which has required more maintenance each year. He said the department’s current oxygen packs are “over 20 years old” and need to be replaced.