Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 21
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
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Borough Council Seeking Independent Consultant to Analyze Police Issues

Dilshanie Perera

After much debate in a recent meeting, Borough Council voted to issue a request for proposals (RFP) that would seek an independent consultant to assess personnel management within the Police Department and also to evaluate the role of the governing body and public safety committee vis a vis the police.

Council members Roger Martindell, Barbara Trelstad, and Kevin Wilkes voted in favor of the RFP, while David Goldfarb and Andrew Koontz voted against it. Council member Margaret Karcher was absent.

The consultant would evaluate disciplinary procedures within the police department and recommend changes to the process if needed. Suggestions as to suspensions with and without pay would be made, and personnel matters over the past two years would be reviewed.

Ordinances regarding Council’s role in addressing disciplinary matters within the police department would also be assessed.

The need for outside analysis was spurred by a case that began in February of last year involving the suspension of three Borough police officers with pay following an internal affairs investigation.

Part of the delay in resolving the case involved waiting for the Mercer County grand jury and prosecutor to come to a decision prior to conducting an internal administrative hearing. Sergeant Kenneth Riley’s pay was suspended last September following his indictment on six criminal charges, and both Patrolman William Perez and Sergeant Kevin Creegan resigned from the force in December of last year, and this February, respectively, whereupon their pay was terminated.

Following the resignations, no additional information was released, which contributed to frustration among Council members.

“We’ve been nibbling at the edges of this issue for the last six months,” Mr. Martindell said, telling Council that “serious analysis has to be done.”

Mr. Koontz expressed skepticism about an outside study, noting that “we have had our counsel review many times what occurred, and to the extent that Chief [Anthony Frederico] can provide that information for free, we should do that.”

Seconding Mr. Koontz’s view, Mr. Goldfarb characterized the study as potentially costly and useless, noting that “the Mercer County prosecutor has fully endorsed the actions taken by our police department in this case.”

As for hiring an independent consultant, “I regard that as a waste of the Borough’s money,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

“One of the important things we owe the public is the level of transparency that an outside interviewer can provide,” Ms. Trelstad countered, adding that the information could ensure that Council is better informed in the future.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi suggested that Council send out the RFP to see if a study would be viable, but that “if it comes back over $7,000 or $8,000, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it.”

Simultaneously, Mr. Bruschi urged the governing body to begin its dialogue about the “ultimate staffing” of the police department, and “where the borough police department, and the township police department are ultimately going to go,” hinting at an eventual consolidated force for the two municipalities.

Characterizing the past year as a “bumpy ride,” Mr. Wilkes said that perhaps the procedures in place were satisfactory, but that a report would detail that specific information and assist Council in making an assessment.

Mr. Goldfarb remarked that energies should be focused on the future and the consolidation of the forces, while Ms. Trelstad noted that both the study and the discussions on consolidation could take place at the same time.

For now, proposals from independent contractors are due back by June 5.

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