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?