June 26, 2013

Council Discusses New Police Contract, To Vote July 8 on Department Study

A meeting of Princeton Council on Monday, June 24 was focused on the future workings of the town’s police department. Discussion centered around a new agreement with the Police Benevolent Association and a contract to hire a consulting firm that would examine the department’s workings from top to bottom.

The Council plans to vote at its July 8 meeting on whether to hire The Rodgers Group, of Toms River, for the police organization study. The proposed contract, which is for $11,495, would include several focus group meetings with members of the public as well as an online survey for the department. Four focus groups are planned, but Princeton administrator Bob Bruschi said there could be as many as eight or more. For any meetings beyond the four, the town would pay an additional $1,000 for each one.

Council member Jo Butler asked Mr. Bruschi if the State’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is doing something similar. Mr. Bruschi said that DCA’s is “strictly a manpower review” and is completely separate. Other members of Council spoke in favor of the plan. “We’ve been talking about doing -something on this for about as long as we’ve been a council,” said Bernie Miller, the Council president. “I think it’s time to move ahead.”

The Rodgers Group’s findings would be provided to the Council and made public, Mr. Bruschi said, adding that he would expect to have something to report by the end of summer or early fall. “Part of this is that I want to re-instill communication and confidence,” he said of the department, which has been in some turmoil since Chief David Dudeck went on leave after allegations were made of misconduct. Mr. Dudeck is to retire on October 1.

The study could potentially be done every few years, Mr. Bruschi said. “This has the potential to be a really positive tool,” Mayor Liz Lempert said before the meeting.

Following Mr. Bruschi’s presentation about the new PBA contract, Council members decided to wait to vote on it until the next meeting on July 8. The three-year contract would create savings by eliminating longevity pay, which is an addition to the annual salary based on how long an officer has served. In addition, the contract would increase the time it takes for a newly hired officer to reach the top of the pay scale. “Most departments have a five-to-seven-year step plan,” Mr. Bruschi said before the meeting. “We got PBA to go to a 12-year step plan, and we’re happy with that.”

Mr. Bruschi told Council that the elimination of longevity pay would save the town about $350,000 a year. “When you consider that if you have been here for 20 years, and you get a six percent longevity on top of a $100,000 paycheck, and you multiply that by 50 [officers], those numbers become staggering,” he said.

A pay raise for each year is also part of the contract. Officers would get a 1.75 percent raise each year for the first two years of the contract, and 1.9 percent in the third year. “The salary increase is fairly stable and consistent with what other towns are doing,” Mr. Bruschi said. “We are right in the middle. Our goal was to have increases under two percent, and we have achieved that.”

An officer hired before January 1, 2013 would make $61,543 during the first year of service, rising to $105,700 after 12 years.

The new contract would give officers $900 a year in medical expenses, including vision care. Any employee hired after January 1, 2013 will be reimbursed $450 a year. There is a reduction in the permitted use of family illness provisions, with increased reliance on the language of the state and federal Family Leave Act.

The contract also re-institutes the rank of corporal, which prior to consolidation was part of the former Princeton Township force but did not exist in Princeton Borough.

There was also discussion at the meeting of Assembly Bill A2586, which was tabled last week by the New Jersey State Assembly Budget Committee. The bill would allow private colleges and universities to pursue development opportunities without the scrutiny of municipal land use laws. Though the committee in Trenton declined to vote on the bill June 18, it could come up again in a lame duck session or be brought up at a future date, Ms. Lempert told the Council.