The mayor and council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the hiring of two new police officers to replace two who have recently left the department. One officer is going out on a job-related disability and the other officer has resigned. Both were at top base pay, between $102,000 and $103,000.
Police Chief Frank Papapietro appeared before the mayor and council during their July 23 work session requesting approval to replace these two officers. According to Papapietro, the roster is short five heads to meet the current patrol schedule, a gap that has resulted in the patrol slots being filled by overtime, often by an officer at a higher rate of pay.
"28 patrol slots have to be filled," Papapietro reported. "We're currently at 23 patrol."
Papapietro informed the mayor and council that there is no other alternative other than to plug the gap with overtime.
To date, police overtime expenses have totaled $225,984. If overtime continues at the current pace, it is anticipated that expenses will total $451,968 by year end, an amount that does not include the overtime costs associated with any potential emergency event such as 2011's Palm Sunday storm, Hurricane Irene or the October snowstorm. The police overtime budget for 2012 is $380,000.
"When factoring the expense of paying overtime versus hiring, the burn-out factor has to be taken into consideration," Papapietro told the council. He said that a patrol officer can only work so many consecutive hours or additional shifts before it begins to affect their ability to perform at a high level.
"Also, if you don't have someone of equal rank to fill a patrol slot--a patrol slot with a patrol officer--then you have to fill the slot with a ranked officer at a higher hourly rate of pay," he added.
New Milford's police officers currently work an eight hour shift for six consecutive days, followed by three days off. When you factor in absences due to sick and vacation time, it becomes difficult to fill vacant patrol slots, Papapietro said.
Papapietro proposed filling the gap with two alternate route hires, police officers who have paid to put themselves through the police academy and have been certified by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Police Training Commission, to be hired effective on or about October 1 at an annual base salary of $51,000. He also proposed hiring three academy officers at a base salary of $36,500 each in January 2013.
The council unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the two alternate route hires at an annual base salary of $51,000, pro-rated for 2012, but decided to postpone the three academy hires for a later discussion.
In addition to the approval of two new officers, the mayor and council sought to standardize the police department's headcount in order to maintain a static budget. The master plan calls for two police officers per thousand residents which would be 33 officers. Papapietro said that the New Jersey State Police 2009 survey suggests 38 officers based on the total population and number of arrests.
In 2003, the police department roster included 37 officers. Since 2003, there have been 13 retirements, one death, and eight hires.
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