BARNEGAT – Barnegat Township Police Department recently experienced a change in command as Keith Germain, an officer with the department for over 24 years, took on his new position as Chief of Police on Feb. 1.
Germain, a former lieutenant, replaced former acting chief Richard Dugan. Dugan was acting chief for the previous year following the sudden suspension of Arthur Drexler as chief back in 2016. Dugan has since retired, leaving the duties of chief to Germain.
“So much of what’s made this transition seamless for me, is that he (Dugan) allowed me to do so much in the run-up to his leaving,” said Germain “That was a huge help.”
Germain noted that during Dugan’s year as acting chief, they worked alongside each other quite often. This allowed Germain to get practice in some of the regular duties of the chief before even officially taking his spot, he said.
Because of this transition period, what he does on a daily basis now as chief is not so different from what he is used to, he noted.
Germain noted that the department has many goals and objectives for the future; he plans to work towards modernizing the department’s headquarters and equipment, as well as increasing the police staff to accommodate for the growing population of Barnegat Township over the course of the next few years.
Five-Year Strategic Plan
Germain pointed out that the Barnegat Police Department has developed a Five-Year Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, in which it details some of the specific updates and goals that the department is focusing on.
The plan incorporates six clear-cut goals for the department, including: a new police station, expansion of community policing, crime reduction, increased staff, a succession plan, and improvements in ethics and excellence.
It is put together after a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) that allows the department to assess both internal and external factors that influence the way that the agency protects and serves the community, according to the Five-Year Strategic Plan.
According to a study on population trends in the Barnegat community, Barnegat has experienced exponential population growth since the 1970s. “(Barnegat) is well more than double its 1990 population of 12,235. Based on the population forecast issued in November of 2017 by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Barnegat’s population is expected to peak at 28,411 residents,” it stated in the plan.
To accommodate for this growth, Germain noted that the department expects to increase the size of the force. As of now, the department is made up of 45 officers and 1 civilian employee. Germain said that, while the department is not currently hiring yet, they expect to start the expansion process by 2019.
In addition to the goals set out in the plan, Germain also noted that the department is in need of certain technological upgrades. One of these would be an encrypted radio system.
“Right now, when we talk over the radio, anyone is able to intercept, receive, and listen to those signals,” said Germain.
He noted that affordable police scanners and certain apps allow civilians to intercept those signals. This causes concerns when first aid calls include personal medical information to be intercepted over these signals, he said.
“Also it presents, I think it precludes, people reporting things to us,” he added. When people are aware that their personal information could be intercepted over police radio signals, they might have an issue calling the police to report, said Germain.
On top of this, is that it proves an officer safety issue. “I don’t like the idea that people are able to get that extra advantage over knowing when we’re pulling up and knowing how people are headed to a call,” said Germain.
The addition of an encrypted radio system to the department would eliminate these concerns because it provides point to point communication, Germain explained.
The department is also making digital upgrades to their storage system by going paperless. “Right now we have 29 file cabinets,” for storing documents, said Germain.
Stored in the headquarters, offsite storage space, and mini storage units paid for by the town, the department hopes to eliminate these added costs and hassle by switching all stored documents into digital copies.
It is required by law that all official reports and documents be stored for up to 10 years with the department. Because of this rule, the department is a bit over run with paperwork.
According to Germain, the department began converting documents into an electronic format last year.
“We’ve been building it into the budget…just taking a little chunk each year,” he said. Germain noted that this upgrade will help save space and make retrieving OPRA requests much easier.
“We are hopeful that in 3 years,” we will have everything converted digitally, he added.
Also, as part of the town’s surveillance system, Germain noted that a camera will be added to Potomac Court in Barnegat. “If you look at where the camera coverage is there’s like one big gap in the coverage on Potomac,” he explained.
The additional camera will help to close this gap to help further reduce crime in the area.
New Police Station
“We met with the architect yesterday (Feb. 14),” to discuss the plans for the new police station, said Germain.
At a recent council meeting, the township council passed an ordinance allowing for a Feasibility Assessment to be conducted for the construction of the new town hall and police station, to be built with $15 million in bonds.
The architect meets with all the department heads for a first assessment, to discuss what is needed for the new buildings, he explained.
The new police station is expected to have some of the resources and facilities that the current station lacks, such as a sally port, an expanded cell block, and more work stations to accommodate the officers.
“We will have a state of the art facility,” said Germain.
The timeline for the project is tentative but, according to Germain, within approximately six months the size and plan for the building will be complete allowing for bids to be made. Germain hopes to break ground on the construction come spring in 2019 and expects it to take approximate one year to complete the construction.
Cops In Schools
Germain also addressed the fact that Barnegat police are and will continue to be heavily involved in the Barnegat School District.
“Every day, our day shift officers walk through every school,” said Germain.
This serves a few different purposes, said Germain. First, it provides a non-patterned patrol of the school. “If somebody is maybe thinking about doing something, they don’t know what time the officer is going to show up,” he said.
Second, this helps facilitate interactions between the school staffs and the officers, enabling better communication and information exchange.
Lastly, this process helps the officers to learn the layout of all of the local schools. If ever an event were to transpire, the officers know their way around each and every school.