Townspeople support decision to abolish police chief’s position

IRVINGTON, NJ — On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Municipal Council unanimously voted to abolish the position of chief of police from the chain of command within the Irvington Police Department, and the reaction around town to the news has been swift.

Longtime residents and community activists such as Irvington Joint Block Association Coalition President and Nesbitt Terrace President Elouise McDaniel and Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher said they had mixed feelings about the council’s vote, which essentially ended Chief Michael Chase’s law enforcement career. Witcher said the council’s move may have unforeseen legal repercussions for the town and taxpayers.

“I was thinking that Chief Chase was about to retire from the IPD when I heard he was fired,” Witcher said Friday, Jan. 15. “North Ward Councilman David Lyons was known to support him over the years, but voted to clear the title of chief from the police department. Can Chase be fired while on suspension? How much will taxpayers have to pay if Chase sues? Because insurance is not free.”

Witcher, a former Board of Education member, Irvington Housing Authority board member and retired Newark Public Schools teacher said her years of experience as a member of the teachers union makes her think she would have handled letting the chief go differently.

“Having completed courses in administration, I know that best practices in labor and industry recommend letting the employee quit, retire or move on,” Witcher said. “It takes time and money to litigate if employees file lawsuits. Furthermore, what process is in place to clear a title when a person holds that title? I guess we will have to wait and see.”

McDaniel said she was at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, where the vote to abolish Chase’s job title and position took place, and was surprised at what she saw, but said she’s glad the chief’s position has been abolished, though there are still a lot of questions about the new Public Safety Department and its director, Tracey Bowers, that need to be answered as quickly as possible.

“I don’t know if Director Bowers is really qualified to handle all of this; I’m just not sure,” McDaniel said. “I thought that maybe Chief Chase should have been gone, but now that they’re … combining the Police Department and the Fire Department and the Parking Department, and the director is going to have control over all of that, I don’t know how he’s going to do. I’m really skeptical.”