Author Topic: Civilian Police Director Appointed  (Read 4692 times)

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Civilian Police Director Appointed
« on: January 22, 2013, 11:38:52 PM »
Mordaga appointed Hackensack's civilian police director
Tuesday, January 22, 2013   
Last updated: Tuesday January 22, 2013, 10:20 PM
The Record

Michael Mordaga, Hackensack’s most decorated police officer and a well-known figure among Bergen County power brokers and politicians, will return to lead the city’s 114-member Police Department as it emerges from a period of turmoil and controversy.

His appointment as police director, strongly supported by the city’s police union, was announced by the city manager Tuesday night. It comes at a critical time for the department, which is reeling from the ouster of former chief Ken Zisa last year on charges of official misconduct and insurance fraud.

Mordaga, who retired from law enforcement in 2007, was in charge of many high-powered criminal cases for both the city Police Department and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. One of them, a probe of a suspected gambling enterprise, led to two civil lawsuits that alleged that Mordaga had business and personal dealings with a reputed mobster at the center of the investigation – assertions that Mordaga has denied.

He also faced conflict-of-interest questions when The Record reported that he was a paid security consultant to Hackensack University Medical Center, a five-year relationship that began while he was a Hackensack police supervisor and continued after he joined the Prosecutor’s Office.

But city police officers said Mordaga is the right leader for the department as it works to rebuild morale following a tumultuous two-year period during which Zisa was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, and the department was sued by more than 20 of its own officers.

Mordaga’s appointment as director had strong support from the city’s police union, whose executive board pushed publicly for him to be named to the post. Union leaders said Mordaga commands respect from those who worked with him and for him. Mordaga’s heroics in the department – from daring arrests and chases to life-saving rescues – propelled him to near legendary status.

“His work ethic and reputation speaks for itself, and we’re lucky to have him as a member of this Police Department again,” said John Herrmann, president of Local 9 of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and one of dozens of officers who attended the meeting in a show of support for Mordaga.

Officers from Teaneck and South Hackensack also spoke in support of Mordaga, as did several community leaders and clergy members. Some of them commended Mordaga for his continuing involvement in the community, especially in youth programs.

Mordaga, who did not attend the meeting and could not be reached Tuesday night, left the city police department in 2002 at the rank of inspector to become the chief of detectives for the Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2010, a former state investigator, James Sweeney, alleged in a lawsuit that Mordaga had a personal and business relationship with a reputed mobster, Frank Lagano, and that Mordaga borrowed money from and vacationed with Lagano.

Sweeney maintained that he was fired for raising questions about that relationship. The case was dismissed after Sweeney's death in July 2011.

In August 2012, the Lagano estate sued Mordaga, the Prosecutor's Office, and the state Criminal Justice Division. The lawsuit claims Mordaga pushed Lagano to hire a handpicked criminal attorney and that somebody from the office leaked sensitive information that led to Lagano’s slaying in April 2007.

Bills for Mordaga’s county-issued cellphone, obtained by The Record, indicated repeated contact between the two men. When asked about the bills, Mordaga called the information “surprising.” He also said any calls to Lagano were made on “police business.”

Mordaga and Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli vehemently denied allegations of wrongdoing.

City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono said he received 36 applications for the job. Working with a police consulting firm, he whittled the list to 10 candidates and, later, to three finalists.

He said he chose Mordaga because he knows the community and the mechanisms of the Police Department. But he also has enough distance from it, having moved on more than a decade ago, to look at the department with a fresh perspective, Lo Iacono said.

“That separation gives him the opportunity to know what’s going on in the department without having been involved in all the issues we’ve been facing in the last two or three years,” he said.

The city’s interim police chief, Tomas Padilla, retires Jan. 30. Mordaga, who will earn $150,000 annually, will start Feb. 4.

A group of city activists had been pushing officials to appoint a police director, arguing that an outsider without allegiances or conflicts could help straighten out the police force. Those activists, frequent critics of city corruption, also expressed support for Mordaga’s appointment as police director.

The council was initially resistant to the idea of a police director, but voted in October to create the police director’s position.

The position exists in lieu of a police chief. Because it is a “civilian” position, the police director cannot make arrests, conduct motor vehicle stops or perform patrol duties. He also cannot carry a police firearm, and has no power of arrest, according to the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.


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Re: Civilian Police Director Appointed
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2013, 11:28:23 AM »

YouTube Description:
Published on Jan 24, 2013

Michael Mordaga, a retired veteran of the Hackensack Police Department and former chief of detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, was named Hackensack Police Director.

P.O. John Herrmann, the Hackensack PBA president, Michael Frew, the South Hackensack chief of police, Det. Harold Clark from the Teaneck Police Department and Emil Canestrino, a retired Hackensack police captain, react to the appointment which occurred at a Hackensack city council meeting.

I shot the video using the JVC GY-HM100U.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 11:34:29 AM by Editor »