Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 16
 
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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Council Votes to Add Captain to Police Dept, Limit Police Positions

Dilshanie Perera

In a 4-1 vote, Council passed an ordinance restructuring the Borough Police Department by adding the position of a captain, who would be the second in command after the chief of police, and to limit the department size to a maximum of 30 officers.

Council members Jenny Crumiller, Andrew Koontz, Barbara Trelstad, and Kevin Wilkes voted in favor of the change, while Roger Martindell opposed it. David Goldfarb was absent.

Under the new rules, the department will consist of a chief of police, captain, no more than two lieutenants, no more than six sergeants, and no more than 20 patrol officers.

Chief of Police David Dudeck explained that under the new structure, the patrol lieutenant would manage four squads comprised of four patrol sergeants, each with four patrol officers. The operations lieutenant would manage the administrative sergeant, the meter personnel, the dispatchers, and the records clerks, while the detective sergeant would oversee a bureau of four detectives.

“Regarding the functions of the patrol division, public safety is paramount, as is the safety of our officers” Mr. Dudeck said. To provide adequate service to the community, a given patrol on duty should be able to respond to at least two “hot calls,” that is, calls that require at least two officers to respond. Because it is likely that a patrol officer from a five-person squad may be absent due to training, vacation time, or sick leave, leaving four as the minimum number of officers present. The minimum during the day shifts is three officers.

“In the strictest emergency cases we have an understanding with Princeton Township, West Windsor and Lawrence,” Mr. Dudeck noted, adding that “we don’t want to count on that.”

Over the past 45 years, the total number of calls received by the Borough Police has increased exponentially, beginning with 2,356 calls in 1965, growing to 8,478 calls in 1995, and weighing in at 20,527 calls last year, according to statistics presented by Mr. Dudeck. The average time spent by a patrol officer on call in 2009 was 45 minutes.

“Structurally, it is imperative in our department that we have a captain,” Mr. Dudeck emphasized.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi noted that departmental structure has been a topic of discussion “for months” and that internally, the “single largest criticism is supervision. We need to provide adequate supervision to an extremely young police department, and make sure we are tutoring and mentoring them.”

“Something that has taken the back seat has been training,” Mr. Dudeck said, referring to the state of the department, which is currently operating with 27 officers, of which only 24 are “fully able.” One consequence is that “Our overtime has gone up tremendously with the shortage.”

Mr. Martindell wanted last Tuesday’s meeting to be the beginning of a larger conversation about the nature of the police department, with more information about the kinds of calls received, and a broader dialogue about how officers spend their time within the community. “How can we improve the economy by which we deliver services?” he asked.

Adding that there are opportunities for shared services between the Borough and Township with respect to policing, Mr. Martindell advocated for cooperation between the municipalities on the issue.

Mr. Bruschi responded that “we’re 100 percent supportive, but it’s not something we can pursue [unilaterally]...we need to take it up from a policy perspective.”

“In later discussions we can talk about the detective bureau, and so on, but the bottom line for the public is to get the patrol right,” observed Mr. Koontz.

Mr. Martindell cautioned that the move would have a “strong implication for the future” as well as real “budgetary consequences,” with Mr. Bruschi noting that 30 officers have been planned for in the 2010 budget.

“This is actually a reduction from 34 officers to 30 officers, not an escalation from 27 to 30,” Mr. Wilkes said, adding “I believe this represents a reasonable middle ground.”

Another critique by Mr. Martindell was that “the captain is really the presumptive chief.” He asked Council to wait until “we get to know the two lieutenants better.”

“The position [of captain] is so very important to me in running the department in an efficient manner. We need someone who really is second in command,” Mr. Dudeck added.

The two Borough lieutenants were on hand to comment, with Nicholas Sutter expressing his approval for the ordinance, saying “This isn’t an individual thing; it’s for something bigger. Sharon Papp concurred, noting “I think it’s in the best interests of the department.”

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