Jersey City once again has an off-duty jobs program for its police officers, two years after city officials ended one when more than a dozen officers, including a former police chief, pleaded guilty to federal charges they were paid thousands of dollars for jobs they didn’t perform.
At the time, Mayor Steve Fulop said the city would replace the system with one that had better oversight.
On Saturday, Fulop tweeted: “A new restructured program will work better for residents with more police visibility and create more opportunities for JCPD to supplement their income – but accountability and transparency to the jobs are crucial.”
Off-duty officers were able to supplement their salaries by taking jobs directing traffic, overseeing public utility repairs and providing security for construction sites.
While a federal investigation uncovered long-standing fraudulent practices within the program, Public Safety Director James Shea said corruption flourished during the city’s recent building boom.
“As construction work in Jersey City exploded, the program exploded from something manageable to something that had become unmanageable,” said Shea. “It’s a monster that grew organically.”
Shea said officers returned to security details at locations including the Jersey City Medical Center and Newport Mall a few months ago and that the city would be expanding the program to public utility work sites as early as this month.
Reforms to prevent corruption
But officials say they’re putting reforms in place to prevent future corruption.
Companies are no longer required to hire police officers for most jobs and can instead opt for private companies or even their own employees. And police officers will no longer be able to assign fellow officers to off-duty jobs.
For decades, the off-duty work program allowed some officers to earn double or even triple their annual salaries.
Last year, Jersey City’s police unions sued over the city’s 2018 decision to halt the program, which one union president called a “knee-jerk reaction” to the corruption scandal. A superior court judge sided with the city in April.
Shea said the lucrative off-duty jobs aren’t as essential for officers because the administration has increased base salaries through contracts and promotions.
Still, he called the program a double-edged sword.
“We welcome the opportunity for officers to make a couple extra dollars and we understand their desire to do so,” he said. “But we want to ensure they’re not working so hard they’re impeding their ability to do their primary job in an efficient and responsible manner. We’re keeping an eye on the program.”