Chief Philip Zacche’s past off-duty job in Marion Gardens raises questions

A quote in the Hudson Reporter raises serious questions about an off-duty job then-Deputy Chief Philip Zacche claimed to have worked in the Marion Gardens public-housing complex.

Chief Philip Zacche - Marion Gardens, Jersey City

PHOTO: City of Jersey City (YouTube)

On July 12, 2015, The Hudson Reporter published an article by Al Sullivan titled New digs in an old ‘hood, and produced this quote from Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Chief of Police Philip Zacche:

“I haven’t been in this building in more than 25 years,” Zacche said, as he looked over the two-story brick building city officials hope to convert over the next few months at the cost of about $1 million.

After that story was published, Real Jersey City received a tip regarding an off-duty jobs program for police officers being run out of the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) – an autonomous city agency.

Through subsequent Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests with the JCHA, all timesheets and pay records, for all officers working off-duty, from July 1, 2013 until November 7, 2014, were returned in a timely manner in accordance with the law.

The date of the requests ended on November 7, 2014 because the program was moved from under the JCHA’s control to the JCPD at that time, less than a month after Zacche was sworn in as chief on October 8, 2014.

Within the JCHA’s response regarding timesheets, records show that Zacche, then a deputy chief, irregularly worked an off-duty housing job every week during a one year timespan – from June 29, 2013 to June 30, 2014 – until a few weeks before being named acting chief on July 21, 2014.

What’s interesting is that Zacche was assigned to the Marion Gardens site, yet told Sullivan that he hadn’t been in one building within the housing complex in more than 25 years – when he worked the neighborhood as “part of the narcotics squad.”

According to sources, the off-duty JCHA jobs were mostly filled with members of the narcotics/street crimes unit – which Zacche oversaw as Chief of Investigations during the time period in question. The source added that the off-duty jobs program is designed to fight crime in public housing, especially narcotics activity.

Of note, a November 9, 2009 Jersey City Independent article reported that the JCHA received $300,000 from the federal government for its Drug Elimination Program.

Zacche was paid nearly $20,000 for the off-duty job during the one year time span, on top of his regular salary of $174,935 at the time. Besides one bi-weekly pay period, where he worked 14 hours in both weeks, Zacche put in for 12 hours every week of the year in question – including times he was on vacation from the JCPD.

According to his regular timesheets – which were not received in a timely manner from the Fulop Administration – Zacche took extended time off from his regular shift (over four days straight, which include a mix of vacation days, days off, and holidays) three times during the one year period. From September 14, 2013 to September 22, 2013, December 21, 2013 to January 5, 2014, and February 22, 2014 to March 2, 2014.

Of note, from December 21, 2013 to January 5, 2014, Zacche’s regular timesheet claimed he worked on New Year’s Day (January 1, 2014). According to a source, that may not be accurate because JCPD management staff schedule employees have holidays off, and as previously noted by Real Jersey City, the Fulop Administration has provided some questionable timesheets through OPRA – which are considered accurate and official.

During all of the aforementioned periods of extended time off, Zacche worked nine off-duty shifts (including one 12-hour shift) – with all but two of the nine shifts either beginning at midnight or going through midnight.

As well, Zacche worked many 12-hour shifts that ended an hour or two before his regular shift – which would be in violation of a JCPD regulation mandating that officers not work more than 16 hours in any 24 hour period. It’s believed that Zacche’s regular shift was from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., upon information and belief.

While the off-duty job is supposedly designed to fight crime, especially narcotics activity, Zacche didn’t make an arrest for the one year period in question – according to an OPRA response from the Fulop Administration.

Records returned from an OPRA request for “all police reports filed from July 1, 2013 to November 1, 2014 with the location of incident at Marion Gardens housing projects” did not return any documents with Zacche’s name. It should be noted that the city withheld many records “deemed Criminal Investigatory Records,” – which are “exempt from disclosure.”

According to the City Clerk’s office:

N.J.S.A. 47:1a-1.1 defines a criminal investigatory record as “a record which is not required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file that is held by a law enforcement agency which pertains to any criminal investigation or related civil enforcement proceeding.”

As previously reported, Real Jersey City also filed two OPRA requests for Zacche’s E-Z Pass records – with both receiving a response of “no responsive records.” Noted in the article, a request for all E-Z Pass violations also received a response of “no responsive records,” but was proven to be false because Real Jersey City had already received the documents from a non-law enforcement source.

According to a police source, Zacche, in both his position as Chief of Investigations, and prior to that Chief of Support Services, would have a take home city vehicle, as well as an E-Z Pass transponder, made available.

Of note, according to multiple police sources, the Jersey City Housing Authority off-duty jobs program potentially parallels with a similar story of corruption in Elizabeth, NJ. Two Elizabeth officers eventually plead guilty to theft charges for billing the Elizabeth Housing Authority for hours they did not work.

Following the housing scandal, the Elizabeth Police Department implemented a policy prohibiting captains from working outside overtime jobs – which was recently upheld by an appeals court.

According to NJ Advance Media, Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove in a written statement said “it is unquestionable that a lower ranking officer would never find fault with any alleged wrongful actions taken by a captain.” Cosgrove added that “should a lower ranking officer turn in a captain, that officer would most assuredly experience the ramifications at the department.”

Zacche, as the highest ranking officer working a JCHA off-duty job, reported to a lower ranking supervisor most of the time – Capt. John Sabo. According to a police source, Zacche was Sabo’s superior inside the JCPD, and would be responsible for approving Sabo’s overtime as a JCPD officer – which he earned thousands of dollars from.

According to the City Clerk’s office, Sabo’s overtime timesheets were not returned because:

Redactions were made under N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 which states, “A public agency has a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard from public access a citizen’s personal information with which it has been entrusted when disclosure thereof would violate the citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Jersey City Spokesperson Jennifer Morrill did not respond to an email requesting Zacche answer questions directly from Real Jersey City regarding the off-duty job.

Of note, Public Safety Director James Shea said that his office would also be moved to Marion Gardens, along with Internal Affairs, the Special Investigations Unit, police fiscal, and other administrative offices, according to Sullivan’s report.

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