Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Regret Misstep over Cop Promotion

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Regret Misstep over Cop Promotion

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- The city manager and the mayor publicly apologized for the botched promotion of a black lieutenant after once again fielding questions on the issue Tuesday night.

About 30 black residents attended the meeting, and many of them spoke during the public comment portion about the issue of the failed promotion.

In March, Lt. James Prise was provisionally promoted with much fanfare, making him the first black captain in the city's history. At the same time, he was named officer in charge of the department, with day-to-day authority over its operation.

However, he learned in April that he had failed part of his state- administered exams and returned to the rank of lieutenant.

"A celebration was held, and we were called, lifted up and then deflated as a community. Talk about embarrassing and insulting," said Carolyn Davis, a city resident. Davis was the first to speak on the issue in a conversation that lasted about two hours Tuesday.

The Rev. Gregory Jackson of Mount Olive Baptist Church said that the discussion goes beyond Prise himself.

"It's not about Officer Prise at this point, it's about our sons and our daughters and those young people who follow him, and for them, having a sense that they can achieve just like anybody else in Hackensack," Jackson said.

He and several other residents asked that the council give a public apology, although Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino pointed out that that had already been done.

"We did apologize and said over and over how shocked this council was of this result. No one felt worse than we did," Canestrino said. She explained that the council tried to respect Prise's wishes as a private person to move on.

"We did what we thought was the right thing to do," she said of the promotion.

On Friday, Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis released a statement in which she apologized for the "premature" promotion and called on City Manager David Troast to explain the decision-making process.

Mayor John Labrosse and Canestrino argued that the statement was a political move.

Keeling-Geddis said Tuesday that she stood by her statement.

"Please know that there was nothing political about my actions. …

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