ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s new police chief began his tenure by addressing excessive-force allegations and promising policies to improve the department’s image and help community relations.
A new K-9 policy, limits on how off-duty officers working private details are used and an effort to get police more involved with the city’s youth are some of the plans Chief Henry White Jr. has as he takes the helm of the department.
“In addition to being efficient, we need to be effective,” White said Monday, shortly after he was sworn in. “We're no longer going to measure our success by how many arrests we make. We’re going to need to ask: What is our relationship with the stakeholders, with the people we are paid to protect and serve? Do they trust us well enough?”
White quickly went to the issues that have plagued the Police Department, including recent high-profile allegations of excessive force and misuse of police dogs. He promised transparency in Internal Affairs investigations and limits on how long they will take.
A new K-9 policy, which is being worked on, would require authorization from a sergeant before a dog can be deployed except in instances of deadly force or the threat of serious bodily injury.
Also, officers who work off-duty details at places such as casino clubs will have limits on how they can be used.
In some instances, those officers have been acting almost as bouncers, by removing drunken or disorderly patrons from the establishments in which they’re working, White said. Now, those tasks would fall to casino security. The officers would step in only if there is a “breach of the peace” or a security officer wants to press charges and have an arrest made.
White noted that many of the incidents that have resulted in excessive-force allegations — and lawsuits — began with “minor disorderly persons offenses that escalated,” bringing “significant liability” to the city.
Body cameras also were mentioned. Former Police Chief Ernest Jubilee talked of the cameras with The Press of Atlantic City in November, shortly before announcing his retirement. White said the target date for those is some time in January, but that depends on meeting purchasing requirements.
Raised in Atlantic City’s Inlet section, White began his police career 28 years ago as a member of the Safe Streets Unit. He talked of returning to that time, when officers would coach the city’s youth and act as mentors.
His father, Henry White Sr., was a sergeant in the department and served as deputy commissioner of public safety. White Jr. called himself a “product of PAL,” and said he wants to give his own police officers time to be able to work with kids at the Police Athletic League or other youth programs.
“We’re going to make time to do these things,” White said.
City Council President Speedy Marsh said he was glad to hear the new chief would focus on these issues, which have been brought up at several council meetings.
He and City Councilman George Tibbitt, who heads the Public Safety Committee, said it helps that White grew up in the city.
“He understands the poverty of these kids. He understands the anger of these kids,” Tibbitt said. “He understands the investment that needs to be made. They’ve got to invest in these kids.”
Tibbitt said he remembered police being involved when he was growing up: “If you got in trouble, you weren’t afraid of the cops. You were afraid of letting the cop down.”
James Pasquale, who was the head of Internal Affairs, will fill White’s deputy chief spot. Capt. Gregory Anderson will lead Internal Affairs, White said.
Also promoted were Lt. Greg Stites to captain and Sgt. Robert Campbell to lieutenant.
Outgoing Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the promotions were bittersweet, not because “it will probably be my last official act as mayor, but because we have such worthy candidates amongst the top three candidates at all four ranks.”
The reference was to the rule that a promotion must come from the top three on the Civil Service list for each position.
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