Palisades Park names police consultant and officer-in-charge

Palisades Park names police consultant and officer-in-charge

PALISADES PARK — A third police consultant, an officer-in-charge and three new officers were appointed as part of the borough’s plan to move the department in a new direction. 

In February, the borough hired three-part time police consultants after a review released two years ago blasted the department’s policies and procedures. 

During the past decade, the force has had four chiefs and gone through a tumultuous time marked by suspensions, lawsuits and infighting. Some of the department’s troubles date to the 1990s, when officers were found to be running a burglary ring that received national attention.

One of the consultants hired in February turned down the job. R3 Strategies and Solutions was hired on Tuesday to fill the void. Robert Anzilotti, the retired chief of detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, is the chief executive officer for R3 Strategies and Solutions. 

The other consultants who have been working in the department for the past two months are James O’Connor, a retired chief from Lyndhurst, and Richard Molinari, a retired chief from Union City. Molinari was hired by Saddle River in March as a part-time borough administrator.

The three consultants will receive $50,000 each, which has already been budgeted for, Borough Administrator Dave Lorenzo said. 

The report suggested that the department focus on three areas: community policing, uniformed patrol policies and compliance with attorney general guidelines and internal affairs operations. 

“Hopefully this will be the link to pull it all together,” Lorenzo said. 

Officer in charge

The Police Department has been led by an officer-in-charge since Chief Robert Jackson retired in 2019 amid controversy.  

Capt. Anthony Muccio served the department as officer-in-charge following the chief’s retirement. When Muccio retired at the end of 2020, Capt. Anthony Espino was put in charge. 

Lorenzo said it was always planned that Espino and Capt. Shawn Lee would alternate as officer-in-charge. 

Lee was appointed to his turn on May 25. 

In 2020, Lee was suspended without pay and ordered to undergo anger management training.

“The next six months are crucial for the department,” Lorenzo said.

After Lee’s turn, the three police consultants will decide whether it’s time to promote someone as chief of police. Lorenzo said the mix of a young department with older officers who are nearing retirement age complicates the process. .

“The department is so young and we are at a crucial point with the department,” Lorenzo said. “I don’t see there being a chief in the near future. This will be a defining moment in the Palisades Park Police Department. It will either make it or break it with what we do in the next six months.”

New hires

Three new officers were also hired Tuesday night due to unexpected retirements. They will bring the department to 40 officers, which is still below the recommended 42 to 45 officers, Councilman and retired Palisades Park Police Chief Michael Vietri said. 

The hires came from the list of applicants who took a test a couple of years ago, Lorenzo said. 

One of the hires is Corey Havens, a former IT employee for the borough who recently received a $75,000 settlement from the town. 

Havens sued after claiming he was wrongfully terminated over his relationship with another employee, who was also suing the borough at the time.