KPD promotes 2; chief aims for more cops


“Their reputation certainly precedes them.”

That’s how Kearny Police Chief John Dowie introduced the department’s two newest promotions: Lt. Charles Smith and Sgt. John Plaugic.

Both were elevated to their respective ranks, effective March 1. Smith will collect $133,971 in base pay and Plaugic will get $116,700.

Smith is filling a vacancy created by the March 1 retirement of Lt. Peter Caltabellotta while Plaugic is replacing Smith in the sergeant’s slot.

The new promotions will keep the KPD’s Table of Organization up to par with 17 sergeants and nine lieutenants, according to Dowie.

That will still leave the department short two police officers, Dowie said. One is to fill Plaugic’s spot and the other is a replacement needed for a veteran officer who was placed on administrative leave after being involved in a shooting at the Walmart this past Sept. 16 and who has now decided to voluntarily leave the force, according to Dowie.

Dowie said he’s also missing the services of two officers – reportedly linked to an investigation involving the alleged disappearance of evidence from the KPD evidence room – who remain under suspension with pay.

And then there is Police Capt. Anthony P. Sylvester who is retiring April 1 after 29 years of service and who is in line for $89,367 in terminal-leave and unused vacation pay.

Dowie said Sylvester – currently one of five captains – “can’t be replaced” because of an agreement the town had to sign with the state Division of Local Government Services “to ‘attrit’ down” to four captains and seven lieutenants as a condition of having received transitional aid.

Six additional members of the KPD are eligible to put in for their pensions this year, Dowie noted.

As of last week, none had.

Still, the KPD workload is increasing, he said. “We went from 25,000 jobs to 28,000 between 2015 and 2016 with fewer personnel to respond. Yet, our number of arrests went up 38% to a total of 410.”

So the two much-deserved promotions come as a welcome respite to the troubling state mandate, Dowie said.

Since Smith was appointed in 1996, he’s been assigned to community policing, bike patrol and DARE officer working with fifth-graders before his elevation to sergeant in 2005.

“He’s a high-energy guy with great street instincts,” Dowie said. Recalling how Smith had excelled on the soccer pitch, from Kearny Rec to Queen of Peace High School to Montclair State, “I don’t remember (him) losing a foot pursuit [chasing down a suspect as a cop],” the chief added.

Smith was the 2005 Cop of the Year for his role in disarming a potential suicide and other achievements. He was also credited with the apprehension of three armed robbers and recovery of the proceeds of the crime.

Plaugic, who came aboard in 1988, has also demonstrated his skills as a “street-savvy” cop, Dowie said, recounting the time when, as the-then commander of the detective bureau, he was notified that the home of the Kearny municipal court judge had been burglarized.

Dowie said he immediately brought in Plaugic to help him work the case and “develop a suspect” whom they traced to a Newark public housing project where the suspect was holding a pillowcase filled with the stolen proceeds.

A former Kearny Kardinal football standout, Plaugic worked in the patrol division and the tactical squad before switching to the detective bureau in the KPD.

Outside the department, Dowie said that Plaugic has evidenced his efforts as a “selfless” individual through his volunteer service with Special Olympics and as president of the Police Athletic League, not to mention his work as an officer of the PBA and former member of the Kearny Board of Education.

And, applying his former work experience with the Carpenters’ Union, Plaugic has dedicated “countless hours” to assisting fellow officers and others with household-related repairs.

Plaugic’s son is also a member of the KPD.



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