Trenton police director resigns

September 22, 2008 3:54:19 PM PDT
Mayor Palmer accepted the resignation of Trenton's police director on Monday. Mayor Doug Palmer announced the resignation of Police Director Joseph Santiago and said he has named veteran police captain Fred Reister to fulfill the duties as acting director.

The resignation follows recent court rulings concerning the city residency ordinance.

The law says city workers have to live in Trenton to be employed there, but Joe Santiago lives in Morris County. Rather than move, he handed in his resignation Monday.

Mayor Palmer had given Santiago a waiver from the residency requirement, but the courts ruled that was not acceptable. The city was given a 75-day grace period to find a new police director. When that window ended, effective 4:00 p.m. Monday, Santiago resigned.

"He helped reduced crime almost 50% over the last almost six years. He certainly has done tremendous things here, and I'm certainly sad to see him go," said Mayor Palmer.

Santiago released a statement that reads in part:

"My thanks to Mayor Palmer and the overwhelming majority of Trenton residents who made my work so professionally satisfying for the five and a half years we have worked as partners to address the myriad of crime and quality of life issues that have impacted cities throughout America."

Some police officers are happy about this development. Director Santiago had been butting heads with the police union since he first arrived.

In an interview from last year, Santiago said "I would want every police officer to like me and agree with everything I do. I know that's not going to happen."

Santiago's failure to move his family and establish residency there was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a group called "Trenton Residents Action Coalition."

"This isn't a personal issue, it's about getting things right in the city and following the laws that have been set up and that have worked for years and years," said Bill Kearner of T.R.A.C.

"We'll certainly wind up in court if there's anything other than a resident appointed to the job of police director," said T.R.A.C. attorney George Dougherty.

There's speculation after a period of time Santiago himself would be appointed acting director, not director, which might allow him to get around the residency rules.

The mayor says that won't happen.

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