Scrutinizing Police Spending, Palisades Park Council Tables $13 Million Budget Amendment

In a recent meeting of the Palisades Park Borough Council, a proposed $13 million amendment to the capital budget met with resistance, with several council members voicing concerns over the lack of details concerning a $274,000 bond allocated for police body cams and equipment. This contention overshadowed other discussions, such as digital payment systems for public transactions and hiring procedures for a police records clerk.

Council members Stephanie S. Jang and Jason Kim were among those who questioned the increased costs for police body cams, given the lack of a detailed invoice. The police department justified the increase, citing new Attorney General guidelines that mandated upgrades. Despite this explanation, the discussion was tabled until more information could be provided.

This debate intersected with another hot topic of the evening: a bond ordinance to authorize $372,500 for new information technology equipment for the police department. The lack of specifics once again emerged as a point of contention, leading to the vote also being tabled. “You’ve been asking for it but break that information; it can’t be just general apparatus,” said a council member.

Public attendees echoed this call for greater financial clarity. One resident remarked, “This is our money, and we need to know.” Another resident raised concerns about the lack of transparency and itemization in the $13 million additional budget.

The issue of hiring procedures for a police records clerk also generated friction. A council member proposed public postings on borough and police websites, a suggestion countered by another council member who claimed that interviews and background checks had already been conducted by the police chief. This disagreement highlighted ongoing debates about the role of the council in personnel decisions.

Lawsuit settlements and public perceptions of the borough were also discussed. Council members expressed a desire to stand with the public when the borough is not at fault in legal disputes. Two off-consent agenda resolutions, one related to a private property zoning dispute and another granting delegated authority to resolve pending police department litigations, were passed without significant disagreement.

Topics like the modernization of public payment systems and a potential additional pre-kindergarten class were also touched upon.

Public participation featured criticisms over the meeting’s length and the council’s approach to hiring a new police officer. One resident described the council’s actions as “micromanaging and time-wasting,” while another resident called for more transparency, particularly concerning police matters.

Further public comments included concerns over heavy trailer traffic on Grand Avenue and the issue of electric scooters, the latter of which was brought up by a resident who had a near miss with a scooter on the sidewalk. Although these matters were discussed, no definitive actions were decided.

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