Palisades Park Council Faces Off Over Body Cams, Legal Battles

At a recent meeting of the Palisades Park Borough Council, deliberations revolved around a series of pressing issues ranging from law enforcement body camera acquisitions to potential legal battles and fire code violations.

The council’s primary discussion focused on procuring and deploying body cameras for local law enforcement officers. A notable emphasis was laid on the imperative of adhering to the state Attorney General and county prosecutor’s guidelines concerning the specific models of the cameras. Addressing the urgency, one council member asserted, “If the directive is clear – ‘acquire body cameras’ – then whether we have the budget or not, we must find a way.” A November 2022 purchase order, approximated at $260,000 and suspected to concern the body cameras, was critically examined due to its vagueness. This sparked a larger dialogue about the need for transparency in financial dealings, with council members voicing their preference for detailed breakdowns in future orders.

The assembly also tackled matters related to the police department’s internal procedures. As the council deliberated on advertising a job position for a Police Department clerk record, concerns resurfaced about the inclusivity of past hiring processes. The call for transparency echoed with a member noting, “It’s paramount that we, the governing body, participate as the deciding authority.”

The waters grew murkier around promotions within the department. Disparities in the promotion of officers led to suggestions of resorting to legal proceedings to address these issues. However, the financial implications of such an approach were starkly highlighted by a council member: “Let’s think judiciously, remembering it’s the public’s funds we’re discussing, not our personal coffers.” The overarching sentiment was in favor of a transparent and pragmatic approach.

In a bid to modernize the borough’s amenities, the council pondered over installing credit card machines at the borough’s pool, offering residents a convenient payment method. Yet, this proposal was earmarked for reconsideration next year.

The council’s plate was further full with a lawsuit targeting the borough for allegedly not meeting its fair housing obligations. As the borough appointed attorney Robert Simon to its defense, the criticality of the master plan became evident. Simon, emphasizing its importance, remarked, “I need to study your master plan closely.” His strategy hinged on scrutinizing the borough’s existing zoning regulations to refute the lawsuit’s claims.

But the waters were muddied when a proposed new master plan, helmed by Jill Hartman, got inadvertently merged into discussions. As some council members conflated the two plans, a member interjected to clarify that the lawsuit was tied to the existing plan, not Hartman’s upcoming proposal. Another expressed concern over the prolonged delay in finalizing the new plan, lamenting, “Despite our intentions in the past two years, we haven’t made any headway.” The prevailing sentiment urged for swift action in hiring a planner to assist Simon in the looming legal battle.

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