Christopher Morgan was appointed Acting Township Police Chief at Township Committee’s Monday evening meeting.
Police Commissioner Bernie Miller, who acts as the liaison between the Police Department and Township Committee, noted the importance of having a commanding officer in place, and said that Mr. Morgan had “served admirably” since taking over as senior officer on March 30, when former Police Chief Robert Buchanan retired.
Citing the importance of “readily understanding” the command structure from both “within and without” the Police Department, Mr. Miller observed that the title “senior officer” is less satisfactory than “acting police chief.” Mr. Miller and others on the Committee noted that Mr. Morgan’s salary will not change with his new title, and commended him for assuming the post at a transitional time for the Township. Mr. Morgan is scheduled to lead the department until the end of 2012.
The appointment came after criticism by Borough Council member Roger Martindell at last week’s Borough Council meeting. Mr. Martindell read a statement denouncing the attempt as “another unfortunate step in what appears to be the Township’s increasingly strident effort to attempt to influence the choice of employees for the new Princeton, based not on merit but on parochial concerns: namely, whether the candidate is a present or former ‘Borough’ or ‘Township’ employee.”
Mr. Martindell said the effort became clear about a month ago “when Township sought to bar the chairman of the Transition Task Force, Mark Freda, a former Borough employee, from becoming an employee of the new Princeton by having us adopt an unnecessary ‘conflicts’ policy that would have barred him from seeking employment in the new municipality. It is now resurfacing in this attempt to enhance the chances of a present Township policeman becoming a Chief or Captain in the new police department.”
In response to some criticism about making the appointment at this particular time, Township Committee members insisted that going ahead with it is “not a political ploy” and “not, by any means, grandstanding.” Each member had prepared comments extolling the appointment. In hers, deputy mayor and consolidated Princeton mayoral hopeful Liz Lempert reported that a member of Borough Council had called her that day asking her not to vote for the appointment.
At the meeting, Ms. Lempert responded to the request not to vote “from my perspective as deputy mayor of the Township, and one who hopes to play a role in the consolidated municipality.” She noted that having an acting township chief will have the added benefit of helping consolidate the police departments into a unified team that optimizes each member’s strengths. Mayor Chad Goerner cited “a merger of equals.”
In an email this week, Mayor Goerner responded to Mr. Martindell’s statements. “I can tolerate it if someone wants to play politics and grandstand on an issue, but I can’t sit by and allow someone to basically slander our police department based on rumors and conjecture,” he wrote. “We need to move beyond this and realize that we have two very good police departments.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with the Borough police department with my participation in the Alchemist & Barrister charity event and they are a great group of folks. Likewise, our police department in the Township has a great work ethic and a strong team-based atmosphere. Let’s find a way to build a strong department based on a merger of equals and stop trying to one-up each other.”
Monday night’s meeting was originally scheduled as a joint meeting with the Township Committee, Borough Council, and the Transition Task Force.