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Council Defers Decision To Expand Police Force

Candace Braun

At odds last week while discussing possible expansion of the Police Department, Borough Council decided to defer its decision, citing a lack of information on the "true" needs of the department. Council also discussed the possibility of adding an additional administrative position to the department since the captain's position was removed when Anthony Federico was promoted to the chief's position in January.

While the Borough's Public Safety Committee reported that Council should move forward with the process of hiring a third lieutenant, Councilmen Roger Martindell, David Goldfarb, and Andrew Koontz said they felt unprepared to move forward with a decision at this time. Mr. Martindell said he was not in favor of a change as there had been no study on whether or not a fourth administrative position is needed. He added that promoting someone from the force to a lieutenant's position would leave a vacancy in the regular force, where he feels the staffing is needed.

"This is really premature, in my view," he said.

In early March, both Mr. Martindell and Mr. Goldfarb contested paying $98,000 for a study of the Borough's police force. They agreed to consider the study if the Township passed a resolution that said it would agree to talks with the Borough over police consolidation. However, after the Township unanimously rejected the resolution, the Borough tabled the police study indefinitely.

Also under discussion was the possibility of adding members to the current 32-member force, which is down from its former 34 members. With a tight budget this year, the Borough has decided to keep the force at 32 officers for the time being. However, Chief Federico, during a presentation to Council in March, proposed that the force is spread thin, and in need of the former 34 officers, as well as an additional three more, if possible.

At the April 5 meeting, Mr. Martindell suggested hiring a civilian rather than a sworn officer to help with the administrative duties, as this person could be hired at a lower cost.

"Does a person making $100,000 a year need to order uniforms? I don't think so," he said, adding that while Chief Federico made a good case last month as to why the force needs another administrative person, there are other departments in the Borough which also have needs. Mayor Joe O'Neill contested Mr. Martindell's remarks, saying that there are already three senior officers who have reached their 25 year mark in the force, including Chief Federico.

"As mayor and Council, we have to look down the road.... We don't know when we're going to lose our 'memory banks' of our three senior officers," he said, adding that it could be three or four years from now, and there are no replacements lined up.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi told Council that he supported moving forward with the promotion of an officer to a lieutenant's position.

"The function of the police department is unlike any other department we have, and supervision is very important to that.... It's a job 24 hours a day," said Mr. Bruschi. "The work that has been put on the incumbents these past few months is very difficult, at best."

Both Councilwoman Peggy Karcher and Council President Mildred Trotman said they felt the Borough should move forward with promoting a lieutenant if the chief felt it was necessary. Councilwoman Wendy Benchley was absent from the meeting.

Council agreed to defer making any decisions on the future of the Police Department until a meeting in early May.

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