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Borough Enables Police to Promote Third Lieutenant

Candace Braun

Borough Council passed an ordinance last Tuesday which will enable its police department to promote one of its officers to a third lieutenant's position.

The July 26 motion passed by a margin of 3 to 2, with Councilmen David Goldfarb and Andrew Koontz voting against it. Councilman Roger Martindell was absent from the vote.

The action will mean there will be a total of four leadership positions on the 32-person force ‹ three lieutenants and a police captain. The action was taken following the discussion of a report submitted by Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi, which stated that since Chief Anthony Federico vacated the captain's position to replace former Chief Chuck Davall in January, there has been a lack of administrative support on the force.

Mr. Bruschi said that although he will not submit a full review of the Borough's Police Department until sometime in September, his review of staffing suggests that the department is in need of an additional leadership position and that one of the department's sergeants should be promoted to lieutenant to fill the void.

"It's really not a new position, but a downgrading of a position we already have," said Mr. Bruschi. While Council members had previously asked the department to consider hiring a civilian to take over some of the workload, Mr. Bruschi told Council that from his review it appears that many of the duties would need to be handled by a police officer, such as the aspects involved in an arrest, which include hours of paperwork and follow-up, along with putting information together for prosecution of the crime.

According to a report from the police department, the force responded to 1,732 calls in May, which included 57 arrests.

"It's not something that could be reassigned [to a civilian]," said Mr. Bruschi. "It's all just part of the overseeing of the department."

Chief Federico agreed, citing that many of the officers on the force are doing five times the work they should be doing.

Councilman David Goldfarb voiced concern that promoting a sergeant to a lieutenant's position would mean promoting an officer to the sergeant's position, which would reduce the number of patrol officers.

"The need to have administrative support doesn't change ‹ our number of sworn officers," said Mr. Bruschi. "The modest cost of having another lieutenant would give us the assurance we need in our leadership," he added, noting that those currently in leadership positions are due to retire within the next five years, and both current lieutenants have the opportunity to retire by the end of this year.

Councilwoman Wendy Benchley took the opportunity to once again ask the Borough to consider hiring a consultant to assess the police department's needs, an issue that Council has been debating since members first argued over paying for a $100,000 police study earlier this year ‹ something the Township had already done.

"Running a police force is a really complicated job and I think we need to hire a consultant," she said.

Some residents and Council members, including Mr. Goldfarb, said they wanted to proceed with talks with the Township over consolidation of police departments. However, Mayor Joe O'Neill reminded them that the issue on the table concerned only one particular aspect of the police force.

"Consolidating police departments isn't something that is going to happen in months, or maybe even years," he said, adding that something Council can begin to think about is the consolidation of dispatch services, which is on the table for discussion with the Township in the coming months.

Some Borough residents and merchants applauded Council's decision to promote a lieutenant, citing the importance of making sure that the Borough's Police Department is adequately manned and that there are enough officers keeping safe watch on the streets.

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