Two Cumberland County police departments at the center of some recent controversies are undergoing a few changes in leadership and command structure.
Bridgeton has a new police chief in Michael Gaimari, who replaces Mark Ott, who retired on Thursday.
And in Millville, city officials are changing local regulations to allow for the temporary appointment of a captain to help run the Police Department when the chief’s position is vacant.
Ott retired from the Police Department after serving with the agency for 21 years, including seven as its chief.
His tenure was most recently marked by the Dec. 30 fatal shooting of Jerame C. Reid by two city police officers. The investigation into the use of deadly force used in the shooting, which has prompted protests, mostly by non-city residents and organizations, continues.
Bridgeton officials said Ott’s retirement wasn’t related to the shooting.
Gaimari, 54, has served with the Police Department for 27 years. His police chief contract with the department began on May 1 and runs through Dec. 31, 2018. The agreement calls for an annual salary of $120,750.
Along with Gaimari’s appointment, the city also promoted James Battavio from lieutenant to captain. Battavio’s annual salary under his new position, which covers the same time period as Gamiari’s contract, is $115,750.
In Millville, City Commission is changing the municipal code to allow for the temporary captain’s post.
The code currently allows for one chief, one captain and five lieutenants.
Under the change proposed in an ordinance introduced by City Commission on Tuesday, an additional captain will be appointed on a temporary basis whenever the chief’s position is vacant for at least 30 days. Whoever is appointed to that position will serve as captain only until a new police chief is appointed, according to the ordinance, which undergoes a second reading and public hearing on May 19.
Millville officials said under the temporary setup, one captain will handle administrative duties, while the other will handles operational duties.
Thomas Haas retired as the city’s police chief on April 1.
Command of the Police Department was turned over to Lt. Edward Zadroga pending the return from medical leave of Capt. Matteo Rabbai.
However, city officials stripped Zadroga of those command duties after his arrest on drunken driving and reckless driving after authorities alleged he sideswiped a car near Main and Sharp streets around 10 p.m. on April 19. Zadroga remains on the job.
Zadroga’s command duties were transferred to Lt. Edward Baer pending Rabbai’s return.
Meanwhile, another Millville police lieutenant, Carl Heger, was charged with simple assault after authorities alleged he shoved a man to the ground at a North 2nd Street liquor store on April 9. Heger is on paid administrative leave.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office has since taken over control of the Police Department’s internal affairs functions.