Port Authority officials say eliminating the chief's job in the agency's police department will increase efficiency, but a union official yesterday claimed the move was linked to efforts to cut back patrols and save on overtime.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced Wednesday it had eliminated the position of chief of police, a post held by Christopher Trucillo at an annual salary of $159,822. The position of police superintendent, a civilian post held by Samuel Plumeri, will remain, officials at the agency said.
"This action will ensure a single point of contact at the PAPD and, most importantly, a single point of accountability in the Superintendent of Police," the P.A.'s executive director, Christopher Ward, wrote Wednesday in a memo to police.
The announcement brought criticism yesterday from a police union official who said he is more accustomed to battling the chief than backing him.
"I've got no doubt in my mind that it was because of trouble with overtime, and with their budget," said Paul Nunziato, vice president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. "They're always crying about their budget."
Nunziato said the action came after police officials were ordered to cut the number of patrol posts at key area crossings like the Lincoln Tunnel.
Trucillo complied, but he also instructed commanders below him to document any instances where they felt the cuts, as high as 40 percent at some posts in September, interfered with their security roles, Nunziato said.
"He was telling his commanding officers if the cuts affected your ability to patrol and safely combat terrorism and crime, to document it," Nunziato said of Trucillo. "They all followed the orders, they cut the posts but he told them to document it. That's what this is all about. This isn't about streamlining anything."
Port Authority officials said the job elimination would not affect the agency's ability to secure its facilities.
They declined to comment further on the decision or whether Trucillo, a 22-year police department veteran, has any future role with the agency, saying that they do not discuss the agency's personnel matters.
They also declined to discuss any role Trucillo may have played in asking officers to document problems with patrol post cuts or whether the cuts were efforts to curb escalating police overtime.
Police overtime hit $48.9 million in 2007, a 14-percent hike over the year before, despite efforts to get it under control.
Trucillo also found support among relatives of Port Authority cops who perished in the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Janice Tietjen, the mother of Kenneth Tietjen, a 31-year-old Port Authority police officer killed on 9/11, said she called Ward to complain about the personnel decision.
Tietjen, who lives in the Belford section of Middletown, recalled how Trucillo visited her home several times and literally held hands with her family members.
"To fire a man who has done so much for the families of Port Authority victims, and for police officers, and to treat him like this is a disgrace," said Tietjen.