Pre-election meeting set groundwork for police and mayor relationship
As the 2014 mayoral election moved toward a runoff between Eric Jackson and Paul Perez, candidates searched for union support that could determine the outcome.
PBA Local 11 had not endorsed a mayoral candidate for the May 13 general election but ten days after Jackson had topped a candidates’ ballot as the top vote receiver, police sided with Jackson for the runoff.
The endorsement came after Jackson had met with Ernie Parrey, Jr., PBA Local 11 President George Dzurkoc and Michael Walker, a political gadfly practiced at the art of public speaking. The promises made in that meeting may not ever come to light, but one can presume from the outcome what deals were struck.
Walker, a vocal police supporter, frequently showcased his speaking skills during city council meetings, as histrionics turned public speaking segments into open-mic frenzy.
Walker moved up the political food chain that he helped arrange the pre-runoff election summit as Parrey, Jackson and Dzurkoc allegedly mapped out the future as political cartographers. Parrey would eventually gain his dream job as police director while Jackson claimed a police endorsement.
Another presumed proviso promised that Jackson could count on police brass to not wage a relentless negative campaign against him, a common practice among rank and file when they found dissatisfaction with a police director.
Former Trenton police Director Ralph Rivera suffered severe pushback from officers and union officials although his persecution paled in comparison to Joseph Santiago.
Santiago, a Mayor Douglas H. Palmer appointee in 2003, received a constant flow of attacks sent to his home computer and mailbox. Police officers followed him around town, one time even slapped the director with a ticket when his car landed in an illegal parking space near Marsilio’s Restaurant in the city’s Chambersburg section.
Parrey represented the alleged perfect choice as police wanted a leader who had moved up through the ranks unlike outsiders like Santiago and Rivera.
Parrey, a Trenton native who served on the city’s police force from 1986 to 2011, when he retired as captain, checked all the requirement boxes to take control of the city’s police force, including being Caucasian.
Dzurkoc expressed pleasure to support and endorse Jackson. He praised Jackson as a man who understood officers’ roles in keeping residents safe.
South Ward Councilman George Mushcal, a retired police officer with 39 years on the city’s force, called Parrey an “excellent choice” to raise department morale.
“We need someone who was born and raised in Trenton and climbed the ranks within this police department to come up with a plan on how to stop crime. Parrey will lead the police department in the right direction.”
Jackson defeated Perez in a June runoff and on July 1, shortly after his inauguration, Parrey claimed the police director job.
Jackson has enjoyed no police condemnation while Parrey enjoys service as the closest thing this city has seen to a police chief since a 1999 referendum removed that position and allowed Palmer and mayors to follow to pick his director.
Accolades have faded as police ousted Dzurkoc as PBA Local 11 president while Parrey remains under fire for a “hood rats” description of black men seen on Lamberton St.
A national investigation identified a Trenton as the fourth most dangerous for youth gun violence.
The Parrey term includes several high profile cases including allegations of police brutality and a lawsuit that claimed a city K-9 Unit allowed a dog to unnecessarily attack a man.
Parrey believes the police department has made Trenton safer. He points to connection with community through Halloween Trunk or Treat events, and a Halfway to Halloween summer party.
The Director says his leadership and police initiatives have removed hundreds of guns and violent criminal from Trenton streets.
Parrey’s recent tumultuous affairs may render him replaceable although Jackson will court again PBA Local 11 support.
Jackson also expressed support for Parrey, his hands cuffed by the Pat’s Diner deal.
Perez, a likely mayoral candidate, has called for Parrey’s resignation.
Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey speaks as city and law enforcement leaders talk about combatting violence in the City.