ELIZABETH – The city re-assigned 21 police officers to the detective bureau this week, but local officials still refuse to contribute manpower to the Union County Homicide Task force run by the county prosecutor.
In July, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage refused an order from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to assign four city police detectives to the new task force. The mayor maintains that the prosecutor lacks the authority to make the demand. Although prosecutor Theodore Romankow disagreed, Bollwage did not relent and Elizabeth has not been a part of the homicide task force.
Earlier this week, published reports suggested that Romankow was thinking of taking over the city’s 350-member police department.
The two men had been at odds before the issue of the county’s homicide task force came up. The prosecutor had accused the mayor of ignoring the city’s gang problem, while the mayor complained that the prosecutor’s office unnecessarily delayed the arrests of some suspected murderers.
The new detectives will work at night, becoming the first nighttime detective squad in department history, according to Police Director James Cosgrove. Since August, those officers had been part of the department’s strengthened focus on street-level drug dealers and organized crime operations. Cosgrove said the initiative led to 210 arrests.
Bollwage said that the prosecutor’s homicide task force has freed up city detectives to help solve other crimes that the police force didn’t have the manpower to do.
Romankow remains frustrated that Elizabeth will not contribute manpower to the homicide task force, which he created in response to the high number of unsolved murders in Elizabeth. The force is understaffed though it is still doing an effective job, the prosecutor said.
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