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Gerald Speziale, commonly known as Jerry Speziale, is an American law enforcement officer and Director of the Paterson, New Jersey police department. A former member of the New York City Police Department, Speziale has also served as the Sheriff of Passaic County, New Jersey, as Deputy Police Superintendent - Assistant Director of Public Safety for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, and as Chief of Police for the City of Prichard, Alabama. He has worked as an undercover officer in the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and for the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force while in the NYPD.
In 2010, Speziale's decision to move from Passaic County to the Port Authority mid-election was the focus of considerable controversy, and prompted allegations that the appointment was politically motivated. He later sued the Port Authority, alleging that port authority officials had retaliated against him for exposing corrupt practices and wasteful spending.
Speziale has been described as a "flamboyant, controversial figure" and as having a "flair for publicity." He has published a ghostwritten book about his experiences working undercover, and has been featured on the reality TV series Cops. He had a small role and acted as "police consultant" for the 2010 film Brooklyn's Finest.
Law enforcement career
Speziale joined New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 1983. In 1986, he was shot in the arm during a shootout with an addict who had taken hostages. Speziale later worked as a detective on the narcotics squad, and befriended future NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik. During the 1990s, he became an undercover agent for the DEA, and was a member of the DEA's "Group 93," which was tasked with fighting Columbian Drug Cartels. Having reached the rank of first-grade detective, Speziale retired from the NYPD on a disability pension in 1997, citing injuries. He returned to police work at the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, and served as the Chief of Police for New Hope, Pennsylvania for five months in 2000, before running for Sheriff of Passaic County in the November, 2001 elections.
Passaic County Sheriff
In November 2001, Speziale was elected Sheriff of Passaic County, New Jersey. Although he had campaigned for republican candidates in 1999, Speziale ran as a democrat, and replaced republican Edwin Englehardt, who had served as Sheriff for 27 years. He was re-elected Sheriff twice, in 2004 and 2007.
In August 2002, a federal law enforcement official told The New York Times that Speziale had "destroyed" an FBI investigation into a man who was believed to have sold false identification to the September 11 hijackers. Federal officials were upset that Speziale did not inform the FBI about the raid, had publicly released details of the FBI's investigation, and had invited reporters to accompany police on the raid. Shortly after the raid, New Jersey's Attorney General ordered all local law enforcement authorities to get permission from a special liaison before seeking terrorism-related search warrants. The incident reportedly led to a "deep chill" in relations between the US Attorney's office and Speziale's staff. Until the raid, the Sheriff's department and the FBI had been investigating jointly.
Speziale also came into conflict with Passaic County freeholders (county legislators) and the state Civil Service Commission over the number of patronage appointments that he was allowed to make as Sheriff. The dispute centered on whether supervisors should count as sheriff's officers when calculating the number of "at-will" investigators the Sheriff could hire. Initially, the state civil service commission and county freeholders accused Speziale of exceeding his budget by making an excessive number of patronage appointments, ordering him to fire eight investigators who had been hired in addition to the 20 "at-will" officers already added to the force. In March 2011, however, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission changed its stance, ruling that supervisors should count as sheriff's officers, and that Speziale had been within his rights to when he hired the eight additional officers. By that time, Speziale had already left the Sheriff's office and the number of staff had been reduced.
On August 10, 2010, Speziale resigned in order to accept a post as Deputy Superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police. Speziale cited family reasons as his reason for resigning and abandoning his re-election campaign. According to Bergen Record columnist Alfred Doblin, Speziale's decision to resign so suddenly, and during a campaign, was "a slap in the face to political allies and donors," and his decision to distribute the $1 million in campaign funds that Speziale had already raised to charity - rather than to other Democratic candidates - added "insult to injury." Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana told reporters that he had helped to arrange Speziale's new job, in conjunction with the office of New Jersey's republican governor, Chris Christie. In response, the Passaic County freeholder board's democratic majority called for a criminal investigation, asserting that Speziale had been offered the job in order to entice him out of the race for Sheriff. Several years later, the Bergen Record reported that "nothing ever came" of the state investigation. Controversy over the appointment resurfaced in June 2015, however, when former Port Authority official David Wildstein - a key figure in the Fort Lee lane closure scandal - alleged in a sworn statement that Christie had arranged for the Port Authority to hire Speziale in order to take both him and his campaign funds out of the race.
NY-NJ Port Authority Police Department
In 2010, Speziale was appointed to the role of Deputy Police Superintendent of the NY - NJ Port Authority Police Department.
In May 2014, Speziale sued the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in federal court, alleging that the Port Authority had retaliated against him after he uncovered wasteful spending by the authority. In the suit, Speziale claimed that the port authority had confiscated his work vehicle, denied him security credentials for Port Authority facilities, denied him medical leave benefits, and subjected him to "daily harassment, intimidation, and demeaning conduct" after he reported misspending to his superiors.
Prichard, Alabama police
After unsuccessfully seeking a position as police chief in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Miami, and Cincinnati, Speziale accepted a post as the police chief of Prichard, Alabama in October, 2013. According to the Bergen Record, Speziale continued to exhibit a "flair for publicity" as police chief in Prichard. The reality TV show Cops, which had had a relationship with Speziale in Passaic County, filmed a segment in Prichard shortly after Speziale's arrival. Local media reported that Speziale was a "force on the streets" in Prichard, and was known for participating in raids and investigations alongside officers.
Speziale abruptly resigned as chief of the Prichard police after nine months in the post, citing his desire to return to New Jersey to be with his children after the recent death of his wife. His departure surprised Prichard officials.
Paterson, New Jersey police
In July 2014, Paterson, New Jersey Mayor Jose Torres appointed Speziale as Paterson's new police director as one of his first acts upon assuming office. The number of reported crimes in Paterson reached a 25-year-low in 2016, according to data reported by the city. Overall reported crime fell by about 12 percent from 2015 to 2016. The drop is the second annual decrease for the city, after 5,060 crimes were reported in 2016. Mayor Joey Torres said he was encouraged by the statistics and said he was confident Police Director Jerry Speziale would continue to reduce crime. Speziale credited the work of city police officers.
Hazleton, Pennsylvania Police Chief
Months later, the Hazleton Headlines reported that Speziale became Hazleton City's full-time police chief sometime between late January and early February of that same year.
Crime in Hazleton decreased significantly in 2016. Year-end numbers show a 26 percent decrease in crime reported by the police department in November held steady through the final weeks of December. Police officers and the community working together, along with technology contributed to the crime decline, which Hazleton Police Chief Jerry Speziale said is at a 10-year low for the department in the major crime categories. Hazleton, Pennsylvania Police credit community, technology with 26 percent drop in crime.
Writing and acting career
In 2003, Jerry Speziale released a book which he co-authored with journalist Mark Seal, titled Without A Badge: Undercover in the World's Deadliest Criminal Organization, about his experiences working undercover in Colombia.
In 2010, Speziale played the role of Captain Sidney Geraci in the Hollywood film "Brooklyn's Finest," directed by Antoine Fuqua. Speziale also received a credit as the film's "Police Consultant."
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