BRICK – At the behest of Police Chief James Riccio, the governing body passed an ordinance on the first reading that would increase the police staffing for captains, lieutenants and sergeants.
The current ordinance regulating police staffing allows for three captains, seven lieutenants, and 19 sergeants. Riccio has requested amending the ordinance to increase the numbers to four captains, nine lieutenants and 23 sergeants.
“At this time we will be requesting two additional sergeants and nothing more,” said Council President Heather deJong during the Feb. 13 council meeting.
The additional sergeants are needed to facilitate the new police officer schedule change that has saved the township in excess of $400,000 in its first year, she said.
deJong said that the police department has evolved significantly in the past few years, “being proactive in the identification of programs and expanding current programs that have been expanded over time as necessary and impactful.”
Those include the formation of new police districts, including one on the barrier island and at Maple Leaf Park condominium complex.
Riccio has achieved a complete overhaul of community policing, including the bike patrol, boat patrol, a new neighborhood watch program, and a new school-based anti-drug program, “Not Even Once,” deJong said.
A new supervisor is needed in internal affairs because of a body-camera mandate, and there is a need to replenish officers on the Special Enforcement Team (SET) and the drug unit who were reassigned to make sure the new programs and initiatives would work, she said.
“Under the chief’s direction, the police department has jumped in with both feet to get these new programs and initiatives off the ground and successful. Community policing takes manpower and amending this ordinance will help our police serve the town better,” deJong said.
Public comment on the amended ordinance would be at the next council meeting, but when pressed by resident Sam Foster about associated costs, Mayor John G. Ducey said there would be no additional cost associated with the request for two additional sergeants.
“There are 19 sergeants now that have the word ‘sergeant’ in front of them, but there’s 21 people being paid as sergeants, so it’s actually not going to cost us anything,” he said.
After the meeting, Police Chief Riccio was asked about the success of the police schedule change, after he said he had been “cautiously optimistic” that there would be savings of at least $250,000 a year.
“The officers like the new schedule. They agreed to try it for a year after putting it up to a union vote, where it overwhelmingly passed,” he said.
After a one-year trial period, if the new schedule hadn’t saved money, or if the officers didn’t like it, they could go back to the old schedule, he said.
“It allows for more training and more specialized programs without paying overtime,” Riccio said. “For example, one of the biggest savings is on Summerfest, which used to cost $60,000 a year in overtime.” No police overtime is used for Summerfest since the new schedule took effect, he said.
Officers’ work days are 10.25 hours, up from eight hours in the old schedule, which adds up to 2,019 work hours a year for both schedules.
The new schedule has allowed for increased police coverage during peak workloads, increased training without an adverse impact on the patrol schedule, and the ability for superior officers to grant time-off requests, said Mayor Ducey in January 2017.
The mayor said the new schedule had been discussed for over a year when superior officers said that a change was needed, based on the growing number of patrol officers’ vacation requests that had to be denied due to staffing and the need to require overtime and double shifts.
The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.