East Orange’s loss of 3 veteran officers is Irvington’s gain

IRVINGTON, NJ — According to East Orange Police Division Officer Craig Epps, who is also the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 111 union that represents the rank-and-file members of his department, a couple of his fellow officers recently transferred to the Irvington Police Division in search of better pay, health benefits and career opportunities.

Epps is also an at large member of the Hillside Town Council in Union County. He and East Orange Police Division Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 19 President Elaine Settle said recent defections by veteran East Orange police officers are part of a trend in their department that is yielding positive results for other police departments.

Local 111 recently appeared in court before Judge Donald A. Kessler in the matter of its dispute regarding officers’ work schedules and deployments for East Orange Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley and East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi.

Coley and Bindi were both appointed by former East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor and are now serving in East Orange Mayor Ted Green’s administration, which has promised to make public safety its top priority.

Irvington Public Safety Department Director Tracy Bowers confirmed that members of the East Orange Police Division recently left that department to work in the Irvington Police Division. Both Bowers and Deputy Director John Brown served as members of the Green Transition Team’s Public Safety Committee to help the new mayor design public safety policies, just as Mayor Tony Vauss has promised to make Irvington safe and clean.

Bowers said East Orange’s loss benefits Irvington.

“They were hired because they actually were on our police list. It was three of them,” said Bowers on Tuesday, Feb. 13. “It was never my desire to hurt East Orange by hiring them. I hope it doesn’t. But we do benefit from their previous training and experience. They were not lateral transfers.”

Irvington Police Division PBA Local 29 President Maurice Gattison echoed Bowers’ sentiments and joined him in welcoming the newest members of the Irvington Police Division. He said he understands why they decided to work in a town that has better pay and benefits than other neighboring cities.

“The officers took the test and were on the list and got hired,” said Gattison on Tuesday, Feb. 13. “Well, we have had some very good contracts, so a lot of officers have been interested in coming to Irvington for years.”

Vauss was unavailable to comment about the three new Irvington police officers, but Bowers said, “Yes, we welcome them, as they will certainly be a positive addition to the Police Division and a great benefit to the township.”

Green announced the addition of 25 new firefighters and 50 new police recruits during his inauguration Monday, Jan. 1.

“With us today we have 25 men and women, all East Orange residents, who are in their first weeks of training at the Fire Academy, where they will report to duty as early as Jan. 12,” said Green at the event. “We have 50 new recruits, all East Orange residents, who will be starting their training at the Police Academy in a few weeks. Please join me as we welcome our new recruits for the Fire Department and the Police Department.”

Epps and Settle said they are glad Green addressed the manpower shortages in the East Orange Fire Division and East Orange Police Division, adding they’re hopeful positive policy and scheduling changes can be made and the contract negotiations between the city and its respective unions be reopened.

Regarding the 50 new East Orange police recruits Green described at his inauguration, Epps said, “We already lost eight in the academy. Yes, it will help with hours and work schedules, once they graduate and get on the job. I believe they come out in June.”

Settle said she’s still optimistic that Green’s administration can stem the tide of experienced, veteran officers from the East Orange Police Division.

Attempts to contact Coley and Bindi about Epps and Settle’s comments were unsuccessful by press time this week.