Nine hundred fifty-eight million dollars is the Attorney General’s share of the proposed budget for law enforcement.
His state appropriation is flat-funded; his federal funds are cut.
Attorney General Jeff Chiesa testified today at the Assembly Budget Committee hearing that his department is prepared to meet every mission with the budget that was presented to the committee
Two new state police classes are written into the budget. The force is aging. Thirty percent of officers will soon be eligible for retirement. Chiesa assured lawmakers the State Police is operating as efficiently as it can.
“I understand I’m only here three and a half months — but when the state police takes on a mission, it gets done, and it gets done in a professional and complete way. So I don’t expect that to change at all. But we’ll have to have a continuing discussion as to what the numbers are going forward and whether or not we would request additional classes in the future.”
Another concern was the use of outside counsel. The department has 700 lawyers of its own and yet goes outside for $21 million of legal work.
Said Chiesa, “I feel very strongly the state gets excellent representation from the lawyers who work in the department. And be it a conflict or be it a particular area of expertise that we might not have, will be the limited circumstances we’ll use outside counsel 46:16}
Several urban legislators asked about crime in inner cities where local police have been laid off.
Chiesa explained the state can only provide intelligence, coordination, and occasionally help patrol the streets.
“About a month after I got here we had a deployment in the Trenton area for 30 days, and we have a real impact when we do that. Because when they see the visibility of the state police in the community — that has an impact. And we can’t do it all the time, but we can do it in a selective way so that we keep these gang communities, these crime communities off-guard.”
This was a friendly encounter, as budget hearings go. Legislators seemed reassured when Chiesa said he meets with state police superintendent Rick Fuentes once a week and talks to him almost every day. From the State House, Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron files this report.