Jersey City -- City in Balance  

 

July 14, 2006

Questions for Chief Comey and Mayor Healy

Submitted to Hudson Report for publication by Dick Laresch

While there has been some media focus on the conflicts which Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy's choice for new police Chief Thomas Comey brings to the job, serious questions remain unanswered.

Chief Comey's wife Phyllis Comey owns a firm called Direct Response, which hires off-duty Jersey City police officers for lucrative posts on Jersey City construction sites. One can argue that because these are well-paying jobs, there is competition for them among police officers anxious to earn that income. So how does company-owner Mrs. Comey decide which officers get these jobs? Does her selection process imply an opportunity for Mrs. Comey to favor certain officers over others? Does she discuss assignments with her Police Chief husband? Does he informally recommend officers for these generous slots? Will Chief Comey favor certain officers, even some who might "kick back" pay or otherwise curry favor with the Comeys? Wouldn't any favoritism lead to corresponding resentment among those officers not hired by the Comeys? Does anyone doubt such favoritism and resentment will negatively affect police department morale?

Moreover, why are these well-paying jobs only available to off-duty officers? Unemployed citizens can't be trained to carry out what are essentially traffic-directing jobs? While one understands the officers' desire to maximize their incomes, police officers are among the city's best-paid employees. Is it a good idea, as Jersey City crime skyrockets, to encourage police officers to "moonlight," thus potentially affecting their ability to carry out their official taxpayer-funded duties? 

Police unions justify increasing salaries by saying that police work is very demanding and stressful - and it is. So why are police officers even allowed to moonlight - potentially fatiguing themselves for their hazardous official duty? And why is Chief Comey's wife's company the only firm that offers this conflict-creating employment? How much more does construction in Jersey City cost because firms must hire the expensive off-duty police employed by Chief Comey's wife, instead of relieving unemployment by hiring trainable market-wage civilians?

Finally, Chief Comey deflects these conflicts by offering a spurious "feminist" defense, dismissing legitimate questions by implying that anyone questioning his conflicts must chauvinistically resent a woman - his wife - owning the company. That's a baloney tactic, and you almost see Chief Comey winking when he offers it. No, Chief Comey, these questions have nothing to do with your wife's gender. The real question is: How can you run a police department when you are in a position to hand-out or steer lucrative off-duty assignments to the officers you command? Are you and your wife, by over-working officers, creating a danger to society? Mayor Healy's judgment also demands scrutiny. His recent embarrassing police encounters, whispered-about drinking, and now this curiously fast and conflicted police appointment, inspires curiosity about Healy's own fitness for office. A final question: Are these the kind of evasive and dismissive people we want running our city and police department?