Newly elevated Captain Mike Clay, left, and Lieutenant Errico Vescio chat before being sworn to their new ranks Wednesday night. Below, Michael Frazee reciting the oath of lieutenant. Clay’s been on the squad since 1986; Vescio joined in 1999, and Frazee in 1996. Both Vescio and Frazee are Red Bank natives. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
A new captain – former Lieutenant Mike Clay – four new lieutenants and six new sergeants were sworn to their ranks at a packed borough council meeting. Chief Darren McConnell, who’s held his post for just three months, said the promotions were aimed at putting the future leadership of the department in place.
But the mass elevation also may signal the beginning of the end of a long tradition in American policing: homegrown cops.
“When you’re sitting in the chief’s chair, you see people who look like the future leaders of the department,” McConnell told redbankgreen. “Making these promotions at one time puts those people in position” to begin demonstrating skills beyond field work, he said.
With some recent hires at the patrol level, including two probationary officers sworn in Wednesday, the department is back to 40 men and women in uniform, said McConnell, who became chief in December, three months after the death of Chief Steve McCarthy in September.
Even with the promotions, McConnell submitted a proposed budget comes in $150,000 to $200,000 lighter on the salary line than last year, thanks to a host of retirements by higher-paid officers, he said.
Those retirements, in fact, created the room for a wave of promotions that he said he had not seen since he joined the force 25 years ago.
“We’ll certainly never see something like [Wednesday night's mass promotions] again in my lifetime,” he said.
Also unlikely, he said, is a roster as filled with officers who grew up in the town.
“New police jobs are so competitive. We get applications from all over,” he said, noting that the two newest hires are both from Ocean County, and only one of the last six is from Red Bank. “They branch out a lot more.”
When he went into police work, he said, there was no need for a kid from Rumson to look that far away for work.
The council also approved a contract with McConnell that will pay him a starting salary of $139,500 a year.
Probationary Officer Benjamin Stringer has served as a Class 2 Special Officer with the Long Branch Police Department since 2011. He’s also been a military police investigator with the Army and has completed tours of duty in Haiti and Afghanistan. (Click to enlarge)