He’s been a Kearny cop since 1999 but five years prior, Adriano Marques learned what it was like to be under fire.
On Sept. 24, 1994, Marques was a Marine platoon machine gunner whose unit had been deployed to Haiti on a peacekeeper mission.
But the unit quickly learned that things weren’t going to be so peaceful, as Kearny Police Chief John Dowie put it, when a firefight broke out and the Haiti police headquarters was attacked.
Marques stood by his gun in defense of HQ and stayed through the night until being relieved the next morning, his Marine citation reads, Dowie said. Stateside, as “upbeat” Kearny cop, he has worked in patrol, C.O.P., bike patrol and as a member of the KPD Honor Guard, Dowie said.
Last Tuesday, Marques and three other Kearny police officers – David Rakowski, Patrick Sawyer and Brian Wisely – were promoted to the rank of sergeant, effective June 1, at an annual base pay of $109,577.
“As of now, this gives me a complete complement of sergeants (19) as permitted under my T.O. (Table of Organization),” Dowie said. “We had leveled out at 17 for quite a while.”
The bad news, however, Dowie said, is that, “by August, the department as a whole will be down to 95 – the lowest I’ve been” – and, actually, the chief noted, he’ll be working with fewer personnel until six newly hired officers complete Academy training in October.
And a pattern of cops leaving the department is continuing unabated, as mentioned by Mayor Alberto Santos during last week’s ceremony. “We have a large number of retirements and the promotions are not catching us up,” he said.
As of now, Dowie said, he’s got two vacancies in the captain’s rank and two in the lieutenant’s, not to mention the shrinking size of the patrol ranks – down from the ideal strength of 82 to just 50. “Guys are running scared – it’s fear of the unknown,” the chief said, referring to the revised state law initiated by Gov. Chris Christie compelling uniformed employees to contribute an increasing percentage of their salary to health care costs and capping certain retirement benefits.
As a result, Dowie said, “we’re losing a wealth of [police] experience.”
In the meantime, Dowie said, the town’s leaders are doing what they can to make up the gap between the empty spots on the KPD roster and the municipal budgetary restraints they face.
Those pressures are likely to become even more onerous now that the state Division of Local Government Services – acting in concert with the state fiscal monitor assigned to Kearny under state transitional aid regulations – is scrutinizing the T.O.s of both the KPD and the Fire Department – just as the town is preparing to negotiate new labor contracts with the uniformed employee unions.
So, for now, the town takes what it can get and celebrates its new police sergeants – now that the promotions have been approved by the state monitor.
Sgt. Patrick Sawyer, hired as a police officer in 1989, worked initially in dispatch before shifting to patrol duties, and is now acknowledged as “an expert in traffic matters” who “has gotten his share of commendations,” including his participation in the rescue of a woman in a wheelchair from a burning building. In 2004 he was among several recipients of a Valiant Teamwork Award from the 200 Club. This year, Sawyer earned a bachelor’s degree from New Jersey City University.
Sgt. David Rakowski transferred to the KPD from the North Bergen PD in January 2001. “Their loss was our gain,” Dowie said. Assigned to patrol, “he did it well,” and then added traffic control to his resume, “handling everything from unregistered vehicles to accident investigations,” the chief said. “You can put him anywhere – he’s unflappable, a self-starter, a credit to the PD.” Rakowski showed his mettle by taking down a burly shoplifter charged with carrying a TV out of Wal-Mart, Dowie said. And he has been “passionate” in his repeated support of the annual Police Unity Tour, the chief said. “He was back from this year’s Tour two weeks and he’s already involved with a clothing drive in Lyndhurst.”
Sgt. Brian Wisely, who came on board in 2007, is another “self-starter” whose dad James served as a Bayonne police officer, Dowie said. An effective patrol officer with an impressive series of arrests to his credit, Wisely has worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, has served as a KPD field training officer and is another staunch supporter of the Police Unity Tour, Dowie said.