Pubdate: Thu, 03 Apr 2003
Source: Ocean County Observer (NJ)
Copyright: 2003 Ocean County Observer


Former state Police Superintendent Joseph Santiago clearly was a poor 
choice to head the state's elite law-enforcement unit. A roar of protest 
erupted when Gov. James E. McGreevey announced his appointment. No such 
uproar followed Saturday's announcement that Capt. Joseph E. "Rick" 
Fuentes, who has been with the State Police for 25 years, would be the new 
superintendent, pending state Senate confirmation.

A key factor in the welcoming reception is the new nominee's upward journey 
through the State Police ranks, especially since a major objection cited by 
those who opposed Santiago was the fact that he was an outsider.

Fuentes has master's and doctorate degrees in criminal justice and plenty 
of street credibility from his work in the anti-gang unit. That's a 
combination that would serve any State Police leader well.

Fuentes vowed to targeting organized crime, in contrast to Santiago, who 
was dogged by unsubstantiated rumors of mob ties.

Fuentes also said he would zero in on international drug traffickers, an 
important priority in a state where numerous drug arrests have demonstrated 
Newark Airport and the New Jersey Turnpike are hot spots in the transit 
route for illegal narcotics.

At the same time, Fuentes has what McGreevey termed a "deep commitment to 
ensuring equal application of the law, diversity in the command staff and 
service to the public."

That bodes well for the aggressive enforcement that's needed for drug 
trafficking, as well as the determination to get the job done without using 
the deplorable racial-profiling tactics for which the 3,000-person state 
law-enforcement agency has been criticized in the past and for which the 
federal government is still monitoring the agency.

Fuentes also served in the intelligence bureau of the State Police, gaining 
experience that will be invaluable considering the agency's role in 
anti-terrorism efforts. That role will be crucial because New Jersey's 
numerous military bases, nuclear plants, major ports, population density 
and proximity to New York City make it a tempting target for those who hate 

The State Troopers Fraternal Association expressed its pleasure with the 
selection, so Fuentes has support from within the ranks. Barring a stream 
of negative revelations similar to those that followed Santiago's 
nomination, state Senate confirmation should come swiftly. Then the State 
Police can move ahead focused on enforcement rather than turmoil at the top.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens