By Carolyn Smith ‘11
I hate to have to say this, but eight of my Bergen LEADS classmates went to jail! Thankfully, it was not due to a protest that got out of hand, or anything of that nature. They went as part of a planned site visit. More on that later.
So, this month our topic was Law and Public Safety. We have a saying in our program, “What happens in Bergen LEADS stays in Bergen LEADS.” I will try to reach that delicate balance in describing our day in our age of social media, while not giving away any State (or in this case County) secrets.
In the morning, we got good use of the phrase “There’s a new sheriff in town” because, well, there’s a new sheriff in Bergen County. Michael Saudino shared with us his philosophy on leadership, as well as an overview of the county sheriff’s office.
He’s always possessed a strong passion for being a police officer, he said, and hails from the small town of Emerson, where he was the police chief. As for his leadership style, he is a self-described man of the people with an open-door policy, who is looking forward to continuing to meet everyone who works in his office. He likes to lead by example and recognizes that others have great ideas and welcomes their contributions. He also recognizes why people choose to live in the suburbs – for less crime and better schools – and says he’ll put his heart and soul into making his organization better.
His position is one of the three constitutional offices in the county, whose budget is set by the Freeholders. One of his first orders of business will be dealing with budget cuts without compromising public or officer safety. The purview of his office includes the jail, ICE detainees, and the courthouse, through which a million people pass each year. He believes that all officers should have year-long tours as a corrections officer. In the public safety area, chain of command is a guiding principle, he stressed.
Next, Bob Williams, from CultureWorks, Inc., addressed, or should I say tricked, our class. Apparently, most of us failed at ‘counting the f’s,’ which was the title of an exercise…that wound up teaching us a lot about ourselves and our skills at prioritizing and multitasking. Bob countenanced, “Leadership is about choices – everyday…(and) change happens daily.” He advised that if we respond with an open mind and humility, it will create an environment of motivation and innovation.
Next, LEADS Director Pat Schuber addressed us on the status of legislative redistricting. He also reminded us to remember two things about leadership: (1) A fresh look at any issue is important, and (2) Leadership is motivating and inspiring people to do things they wouldn’t usually do.
With the morning’s newfound knowledge firmly implanted in our heads, we headed off to our site visits. My group visited the Paramus Police Department. Actually, two groups visited there, and we hit a Panera for lunch along the way. Ken Baum and I also visited the County Police back in October, so we’re becoming police experts.
While we may not have guessed this before today, Lorna Beebe was uber-excited to see some guns, and she totally went all Annie Oakley on us! That, and we almost lost Trevor Jadoo to the Paramus Police, or maybe I should say the law profession almost lost him. Yes, our group was very excited to visit the PPD.
Detective Lieutenant Robert Guidetti was extremely generous with his time and very thorough in his presentation; he shared with us several police resources, including a certain publication that shall remain nameless. Lesson: People may not always be who they appear! Kind of an inside joke, sorry readers.
Next we went outside and saw their mobile command center up close and personal. Two police officers did an excellent job giving us the inside scoop on things like .223 armor piercing bullets, radiation detectors, and more. We also discussed the unique factors faced by law enforcement professionals in Paramus. There are many considerations, including proximity to NYC, major highway thoroughfares to urban areas, population explosions of shoppers in one of the mall capitals of the world, large numbers of young people congregating at malls, and many more.
We also visited their Communications Office with its advanced mapping tools…I’ve sure never seen anything as thorough on MapQuest.
In the afternoon, LEADS Leadership Consultant Lynne Algrant led us through our regular site debriefs, except this day’s was a little different…because one of our groups was missing; they were stuck in jail! They did make it back…eventually. We’ll have to get their debrief next class, though.
The two other site visits of the day were the Law and Public Safety Institute and the Public Safety Operations Center. Laura Amerman and Eric Brewer said the Law and Public Safety Institute was “awesome.” A fire was simulated for them in a pitch black room; Eric said the heat you could feel after five seconds was amazing. Then the conversation turned to the canine unit. Dogs emigrate from Holland for special assignments, such as tracking humans or drugs, here in Bergen County. Apparently, the life expectancy for these dogs is longer if they come from Holland. And then we had an interesting talk about pensions. Carmine Marchionda described the dispatch center as a “gorgeous facility.”
John Molinelli, Esq., the Bergen County Prosecutor and #1 law enforcement official in the county, addressed us in the afternoon. Answerable to the Attorney General, his office must consistently apply and enforce the laws in our county. His support of the LEADS program is ‘evidenced’ (Get it?) by his pride in sending one of his employees, Eileen Hughes ‘11, to complete the program. His passion for his position equaled that of our new sheriff. He said that he was told that this would be the best job that he’d ever have; “No day do I say I’d like to do something else,” he said.
He spoke about several community initiatives, like Internet safety and bullying. He used seized assets to produce four educational videos for youth, including one on alcohol. He’s also proud of this office’s work on preventing drinking and driving, prom safety issues, and disrupting gang activity.
Throughout our LEADS experience, our guest speakers always address us with an extreme sense of candor, which we recognize and appreciate, as well as their use of current news.
Our monthly meeting closed as it always does, with happy hour. James Erwin never fails to entertain us…today it was his description of his jail visit. His contributions to the class are unparalleled, and he often elicits genuine laughter from our entire group. Laughing was a nice way to part until our next meeting, especially after a long day hearing about our county’s serious safety concerns.