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Vol. LXIV, No. 13
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
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Best Choices for Police Department, Prosecutor Considered and Debated by Municipal Officials

Dilshanie Perera

The structure of the Borough Police Department is up for consideration by Council, which voted 5-1 at its last meeting to introduce an ordinance which would reduce the maximum number of police officers in the department from 34 to 30, and reinstate the position of captain within the force.

Council members Jenny Crumiller, David Goldfarb, Andrew Koontz, Barbara Trelstad, and Kevin Wilkes voted yes, and Roger Martindell voted no on the grounds that a more significant discussion was necessary.

Appointing Reed Gusciora as Municipal Prosecutor for the Borough also spurred much discussion, as Mr. Goldfarb suggested that it may appear improper for the governing body to hire a member of the New Jersey General Assembly who represents the 15th Legislative District of which the Borough is a part. Other Council members made cases for approving Mr. Gusciora, who was ultimately appointed in a 5-1 vote.

Regarding the Police Department restructuring, Mr. Wilkes explained that under the proposed ordinance, four squads, each comprised of four patrol officers and one patrol sergeant would make up the “basic backbone” of the police force. Those 20 members would be joined by a detective bureau made up of a detective sergeant, three detectives, and a juvenile detective, as well as the administrative sergeant. The squad leadership composed of the chief, captain, and two lieutenants would bring the total tally to 30 employees.

Police Chief David Dudeck noted that “we can run a very efficient department” and that since the economic downturn, the force has “trimmed all the fat,” and eliminated programs like the bicycle squad. Regarding reinstating the captain, he noted that the position “gives us a continuity of command, and another built-in layer of supervision at minimal cost. It gives you a definite number two of command, which you need should the chief be away.” He added that the current lieutenants Sharon Papp and Nick Sutter agreed that the captain would promote departmental cohesion.

Mr. Martindell noted that he wanted to see a “more open process” regarding the “merits of these particular proposals regarding the staffing levels and the captaincy,” adding that “the captain will cost some extra money and it’s not totally clear why this is necessary.”

Chief Dudeck mentioned that currently 27 officers are on staff, with two out for injuries, and one on the verge of maternity leave. Mr. Goldfarb added that two more are absent because of suspensions.

While Mr. Martindell was concerned that a captain might be viewed as a presumptive chief of police, Mr. Goldfarb said that the rubric had value for the Borough, since the Public Safety Committee could evaluate the captain during his or her tenure, while also leaving the situation flexible.

Mr. Wilkes noted that employee morale would improve, since moving one lieutenant to the position of captain would set off a chain of promotions within the department. “One of the great possibilities for a unified police force is greater advancement...promotions would show them we believe in advancement through the force,” he said.

The public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall.

Municipal Prosecutor

Mr. Goldfarb kicked off the debate about appointing Mr. Gusciora as the municipal prosecutor, noting that it would imply the appearance that it is “in exchange for something of value that he is able to deliver as a legislator. As such, it creates the appearance that Mr. Gusciora is using his legislative office to supplement his legislative salary by gaining a paid appointment in a town that he represents.”

“All of us should aim for the highest standard by avoiding any appearance of impropriety,” Mr. Goldfarb said, adding that hiring Mr. Gusciora would “fall far short of that standard.” He pointed out that Township Committee had already hired a different prosecutor because of similar reasoning.

Mayor Mildred Trotman noted that “the process that was used in selecting Mr. Gusciora is a procedure that has been used many times in the past to pick the most qualified person overall.”

Mr. Koontz explained that Mr. Gusciora was recommended because he has experience with other college towns, and has dealt with the particular prosecutorial issues that may arise in such circumstances, and that he has seen cases resembling those coming before the Borough, like shoplifting and DWIs. Mr. Gusciora’s years of experience were another strong point, and he was pleased to be able to recommend a local professional, he added.

Suggesting that Mr. Gusciora’s tenure on the Legislature be seen as an asset, Mr. Wilkes called him a “rare find” and someone who could bring his knowledge to serve the Borough well.

“It would be doing the Borough a disservice to elect a lesser candidate,” Ms. Crumiller said, with Ms. Trelstad observing that a conflicts of interest clause in the ordinance protects both the Borough and the prosecutor.

Mr. Martindell noted that “our job is to do what is best for our community. Reed’s work in the State Assembly will inform his work as a municipal prosecutor and vice versa,” adding that Mr. Gusciora also has “empathy for those members of our community who are less fortunate.”

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