LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

State police head retires amid speculation of federal job offer

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Meet New Jersey’s next State Police superintendent: Lt. Col. Patrick Callahan, who joined the organization in 1995. Congratulating the family, Gov. Chris Christie said Callahan’s served with distinction across all sections of the organization and is the son of a retired trooper who taught him the ropes.

“There isn’t a part of the New Jersey State Police that Pat has not had the opportunity to work in, and then lead,” said Christie.

Christie warmly praised outgoing superintendent, Col. Rick Fuentes, a veteran trooper who was appointed 14 years ago by Gov. Jim McGreevey to head the then-troubled department. At the time, Fuentes was the fourth superintendent in five years when the organization was working to reform itself after a racial profiling scandal. Rank and file welcomed him as a “trooper’s trooper.”

“He has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration and in 1993 was co-recipient of the New Jersey state Trooper of the Year Award. And it has been an honor for me to have him stand with me these last eight years,” said Christie.

Regarding reports that Fuentes could be headed to Washington, D.C., possibly to head the DEA, Christie said he has not discussed that possibility with the president, but he said, given the opioid epidemic ravaging the country that “… we need a strong, decisive leader of the DEA, and if that were the president’s choice, the president, in my view could not make a better choice. But I have not spoken directly to the president, no.”

In other issues, Christie reacted to a report by “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post on a law that limited the DEA’s ability to impede problematic opioid distribution.

“They voted both in the House and Senate by unanimous consent, and then a Republican Congress and a Democratic president then signed it. It’s pretty extraordinary. It looks to me like the fix was in. I don’t know how many more deaths have occurred because of the passage of that law. Nobody does. But we know there have been more,” continued Christie.

Christie also welcomed a potential Congressional compromise between Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to restore federal subsidies for low-income Obamacare recipients. Last week, President Trump said he would refuse to pay those subsidies, then reversed course and said he liked the proposed deal.

“Lamar Alexander is working on it very hard from our side and if something can happen, that’s fine. But I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies,” said Trump at an event earlier in the day.

“I’ll want to see all the details about it, as usual, but my initial reaction is, it seems good. And my initial guess to what the president is doing is, he’s looking for a little bit more in the deal,” said Christie.

Christie ended with a word to gubernatorial candidates about preserving the integrity of the state police superintendent’s role.

“Those folks who tried to turn this, including McGreevey at one point, this appointment into a political football wound up losing. And so it’s a very treacherous, dangerous thing to get into. Because the men and women of the New Jersey State Police don’t want to be identified as Democrats or Republicans, either,” he continued.

The governor advised the position of superintendent of State Police should never be politicized. Lt. Col. Callahan will start Nov. 1.