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Following Report Calling for Cuts, Township to Reduce Police Force

Matthew Hersh

Just over four months after an independent study indicated that the Princeton Township Police Department is overstaffed, the Township's administrative office acknowledged Tuesday that it intended to reduce the force by four sworn officers.

According to Township Administrator James Pascale, the Township's Police force could be reduced to 31 by year's end. Mr. Pascale said, however, that the reductions would be in-house, removing no patrol officers from the street.

The 400-page report, submitted by Carroll Buracker & Associates, Inc, the Virginia-based public safety consulting group employed by the Township to offer an objective overview of the force, based on an 18-week study including interviews with staff, officers, administration, as well as rides while officers were on-call, called for the removal of one lieutenant, two sergeants, one detective, and one Community Action Team (CAT), composed of three officers. The Township, however, after consulting with the Police Department, concluded that four positions was the most the force could afford to lose.

Mr. Pascale said that a command officer position will eventually be abolished, either a captain or lieutenant. He also mentioned a paid officer who has been on light duty "for some time," and is unable to return to active duty. That officer can file for involuntary, permanent disability.

The other two positions could be eliminated through so-called separation agreements; in other words, the Township is looking for two officers to leave on a voluntary basis. An involuntary leave would have to be based on seniority. "But we're hoping that there are officers who have enjoyed a long career with the Township and are willing to move on," Mr. Pascale said. If no one elects to retire, Mr. Pascale said, then the Township will consider layoffs or other legal means to reduce the department. The Township has also eliminated positions in other departments as well, laying off four employees in the past year.

Mr. Pascale could not quantify how much would be eliminated from the Township's budget through the downsizing, because it depends on who leaves the force. However, he said it could be as high as $400,000.

After one year on the force, Township officers earn $56,000 a year. After five, that rate increases to $80,000. After 2007, a five-year veteran will earn $87,000.

Sergeants on the force earn $92,000 yearly (again, after 2007, that wage will increase to $100,000), lieutenants earn $111,000 a year, and a captain earns $120,000.

In a letter to the editor this week, Benjamin Gering, president of Patrolman's Benevolent Association #130 (PBA), criticized the cuts, saying that they "would bring the Township Police Department back to staffing levels that it had in the 1980s." He feared the cuts would impact educational services and the ability to be "proactive in addressing serious issues."

In a separate letter to Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand posted on the PBA Web site, Mr. Gering claimed that the Buracker report was "inaccurate" and contained "many discrepancies." The letter did not elaborate on those perceived discrepancies, but Mr. Gering said they will be addressed at Township Committee's November 14 session.

The PBA Web site also contained a letter from Ms. Marchand outlining the financial separation agreements between the four officers and the Township. The Township will offer two weeks' pay at the officers' current salaries for "each year of completed service." The letter goes on to say that benefits, including medical, will be continued until that pay period has expired.

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