For the first time since 2000, the borough Police Department has women included in its ranks – two, in fact.
Coinciding with the celebration of March as Women’s History Month, Tiffany Marino and Gabriela Toribio were sworn in March 28 as patrol officers. Also added to the force was Aaron Hensz.
The trio, all filling vacancies in the ranks, are transfers from the Paterson Police Department and their oaths were administered by their former boss, Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim “Michael” Baycora, at the borough senior center.
North Arlington is getting “three excellent police officers,” Baycora said.
Addressing a crowd of the officers’ family members and friends, along with members of the borough police department, Mayor Daniel H. Pronti said: “We’re very pro-police here,” assuring the new hires, “you’re going to have the backing of the mayor and council … as long as you’re doing your job.”
Borough Police Chief Scott Hedenberg added: “This is a small town, a small community. Sometimes we fight like a family, then we fix it like a family.” In prior years, the borough has imported other bluecoats from Paterson and “they assimilate [to the department’s protocol] and they get it,” he added.
Hedenberg said the department was deliberative in its interview process with the candidates to make sure they were “the right fit.”
He said women officers were added to the mix to help “diversify” the force, with the goal being “to make our community better,” not just for the sake of hiring more women. Pronti echoed that belief, reminding the women recruits that, “You were hired because you’re capable, ready to do the job.”
Before these hirings, the chief said, “we had one female and she retired in 2000.”
Going to other police jurisdictions to fill gaps in the borough’s police roster has become “a common practice for us,” Hedenberg said, because, “we’re getting officers with existing law enforcement experience who generally bring a diverse skill set with experience in patrol and investigations units.”
Plus, the chief said, it saves the borough the time and cost of state Civil Service testing and Police Academy classes. Going the Civil Service route, “it ends up 12 months before we’re ready to put recruits on the street.” But, with transfers from another department, once the new hires clear medical and psychological testing, it takes only three months of field training to break in the newbies, he noted.
The latest opportunity to increase the department’s numbers came, Hedenberg said, because, “unexpectedly, we had some retirements. With COVID, and with economic conditions not being strong, it hasn’t been easy to focus.” But now, he said, the department – with the borough government’s backing – is ready to move forward.
Later, Hedenberg explained the department is permitted to hire a maximum of 36 employees, a combination of patrol officers and supervisors. With the three new hires, the NAPD’s at 30 and the chief says he expects to have two additional employees on board soon.
He said he’s still short three sergeants and one lieutenant but he hopes the mayor and council will come through with the money to fill those ranks within the coming month or two.
Since the department’s three newest members are all police academy graduates, the borough is spared the expense of putting them through that training, normally required of new officers. And all three have been exposed to different assignments with their former employer in Paterson.
Marino, whose brother Erick is a sergeant with Paterson PD, worked four years with that department, where she was assigned to patrol, Special Victims Unit and major crimes. She said she’s “always had an interest” in law enforcement as a career. She’s a West Milford resident.
Toribio, a three-year PPD officer from Oak Ridge, served in patrol and juvenile division. She has cousins who are police officers in Paterson and Fairlawn. She said she’d been enrolled in dental school but had a change of heart, took a Civil Service test for police officer and landed a job with the PPD.
Hensz, who served just under six years with Paterson PD, worked in patrol and non-fatal shooting investigations. He lives in South Hackensack.
Hedenberg said the trio made the switch to the borough because of the “strong tie they feel to small communities, based on where they grew up. They see North Arlington as affording “a better opportunity to connect with the residents and business people, to make a difference in the community and, as younger people, a more rewarding experience.”
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Ron Leir | For The Observer
Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.
He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.
He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York