Brick’s police department should add up to six new patrol officers and bring back a specialized anti-crime unit, a consultant told the township council at its Jan. 18 meeting.
“Staffing in almost every case is at or below that which is necessary to handle current workloads,” said Travis Miller, vice president of Matrix Consulting Group. Brick hired Matrix to complete an audit of the police department, which was presented to both the public and township council for the first time at the meeting.
“In almost every case, additional growth and workload will require additional staff,” Miller said.
While Miller lauded the department for being “effectively managed” and having a shared vision and mission between senior officers and line officers, the study Matrix completed suggests Brick should add six officers to patrol duties, one school resource officer and one narcotics detective.
Additionally, Miller said department should bring back the Selective Enforcement, or SET, team. The SET team operated as an anti-crime unit specializing in surveillance, plainclothes, high-visibility and anti-gang operations, Chief Nils R. Bergquist told Brick Patch . It was disbanded in early 2010 due to budget cuts, and its members were sent back to traditional patrol duties.
“In the long term, it’s a unit that you need back,” Miller told township council members. “You have very little in the way of dedicated, proactive enforcement capability in the department right now.”
Other suggestions Miller noted include utilizing more automatic parking enforcement devices, keeping overtime costs under control and considering using part-time communications staff.
Miller also said, however, that the department could afford to reduce its number of officers by four if it stopped responding to minor incidents such as fender-benders and low-priority robberies after the fact – such as when a resident comes home from vacation and finds an item stolen. In these cases, he said, residents could fill out a complaint form online or at the police station instead of taking up officers’ time. Howell Township recently put a similar system into place.
Neither Bergquist nor council members commented on the specifics of the report, which will be made available to the public on the township’s Web site. Council members and those in the audience heard just a short Power Point presentation at the meeting, and copies of the report were delivered to council members for the first time at the meeting.
Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said the report looks to be a fair assessment of the state of the department.
“This was an objective group of people that have done hundreds of these evaluations,” Acropolis said. “It’s difficult to argue with the data.”
What also maybe be difficult for township officials will be dredging up political support for hiring new officers. In Nov. 2010, Brick voters soundly defeated a non-binding ballot measure asking whether the township should hire 15 additional officers. The idea was rejected 71-28 percent.