Lawrence Cops Seeking Transfers to New Department
With layoffs looming, four Lawrence officers are transfering to another police department in the county. Meanwhile, elimination of DARE education in township schools and changes in how officers respond are possible as a result of cuts to police staffing.
With five positions in the Lawrence Township Police Department set to be eliminated as part of the municipal layoffs that will take effect at the end of this month, and with additional police cuts possible at the beginning of 2013, four officers are currently in the process of transferring from Lawrence to another police department in Mercer County.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, multiple sources within the police department confirmed that the transfers were in the works. As the transfers will not be finalized until later this week, Patch is withholding the names of the four officers, as well as the name of the police department they will soon join.
Citing legal restrictions that prohibit them from commenting publicly about matters involving individual employees, Police Chief Daniel Posluszny and Township Manager Richard Krawczun said they could neither confirm nor deny the transfers.
“I can’t really get into anything because it’s a personnel matter,” the police chief said.
“The questions that you’re asking me are matters of personnel,” Krawczun answered. “If there are decisions that need to be made as far as policy then they will be made public at that time. I can’t comment further.”
What can be confirmed at this time, according to Posluszny, is that the township police department is still scheduled to lose five positions as part of the layoff plan that township council approved earlier this year in response to the municipal budget crisis and, as part of that, three patrol officers will lose their jobs on Aug. 31.
Of the remaining two positions to be lost, one has been vacant since a new officer resigned a few weeks after he was hired and started the police academy in March. Deputy Police Chief Joseph Prettyman, meanwhile, is retiring and his position is being eliminated from the department’s command structure.
The loss of those five positions will reduce the number of sworn officers in the Lawrence Township Police Department to 60, according to Posluszny. That number apparently does not include the pending disability retirement of an officer, but the chief – again noting that personnel matters are confidential – declined comment on that matter.
It is unclear how the pending transfers will affect the police layoffs, since not all the officers scheduled to be laid off are seeking transfers. Therefore, the precise number of officers the department will have come September is not known.
Adding to that, several veteran officers will become eligible for retirement later this year and during the next two years.
With manpower clearly going to be reduced from what it currently is, the police department has been taking a hard look at its policies and procedures, particularly with regard to the types of calls to which officers respond and the services that the officers provide, particularly in the township’s public schools.
“Response times might increase some. That’s possible. In fact, I would almost believe they’re going to at times, for certain minor offenses,” Posluszny said. “We’re looking at things we’ve been doing in the schools. There’s a high probability that DARE [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] is going to be stopped in the schools. We’re looking at that. Many of the community things we used to do we’re going to have to scale back. We’re just not going to have the ability to be able to continue those.”
“We’re reviewing how we’re responding to calls. Some of the things we are doing are going to change. There will be changes in response. What exactly we’ll be doing, we’re still really working on,” the chief said, explaining that he has been seeking input from his officers. “I’ve tried to speak at the roll calls, speak to the officers there about their ideas. We’re trying to solicit the sergeants’ ideas and the lieutenants’ ideas. We’re going to try to see what makes the most sense.”
Serious and violent crimes, such as burglaries and robberies, will “be investigated to the same level, obviously,” the chief said. But he said it is possible that officers may not be available to handle minor criminal mischief, harassments and other crimes. Instead, “if your mailbox has been smashed, you’ll be asked to fill out a report online. We’re going to try to increase the usage of online reporting,” he said.
Officers may no longer respond to minor medical problems in cases where emergency medical personnel are already on their way, and most incidents involving animals will no longer warrant a police response.
“If it’s a call of a life-threatening nature, obviously, we’re going. But if it’s a minor injury… In the past we’ve always assigned officers to those types of calls. Now we might have scale that back,” Posluszny said. “If there’s no threat from an animal, we might have to refer it to [the township’s] animal control [officer] for follow-up.”
He said the department’s revised response protocols are expected to be completed before the end of the month.
A total of 13 municipal positions – including the five in the police department – are being eliminated at the end of this month, while a 14th position is being reduced from full-time to part-time, according to Krawczun.
The other layoffs include: a clerk from the tax collector’s office; a recreation coordinator from the recreation department; a part-time public health nurse from the health department; and a part-time fire apparatus mechanic. Two vacant firefighter positions, a vacant public works department position, and a vacant secretary’s job in the township manager’s office all are being eliminated. The employee whose hours are being reduced is an executive assistant for planning and redevelopment.
Krawczun confirmed that a second vacant position in the public works department was recently filled with a new hire.
“There were two positions that were vacated [in public works] and one of those two has been filled. One [employee] left the area and the other resigned for another position. And one of those two has been filled,” Krawczun explained. He said the decision to fill the public works job was the result of “a demand for manpower at this time that we have. We are trying to avoid any further reduction in that department.”
While the two firefighter positions are being eliminated, Krawczun said the township still plans to pay part-timers, on a per diem basis, to fill those jobs.
The township currently has four career, or paid, firefighters who staff a fire engine from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), when most of the township’s volunteer firefighters are unavailable due to their fulltime jobs. This daytime “duty crew” responds, on a rotating basis, from one of the township’s three firehouses.
The two positions that are being eliminated were created in 2010 to guarantee that the two other firehouses each had a qualified firefighter on duty during the work week to drive the volunteers’ fire engines and operate their complex pumping systems, since only a limited number of volunteers are trained to do so.
While waiting for the New Jersey Civil Service Commission to conduct a test for those two new firefighter jobs, Lawrence Township in 2010 began using per diem workers to fill those positions. Although the Civil Service firefighter test results were released earlier this year, the positions were never filled due to the township’s ongoing financial problems.
Now those fulltime positions are being eliminated. Instead, part-timers will continue to drive the fire engines.
“The per diems at this time are continuing,” Krawczun said.
The township manager noted that, after the 13 layoffs/job eliminations take effect at the end of this month, the township will be down to 182 employees. “In 2008, we had 212 employees. We’ve cut 30 positions since then.”
For Municipal Budget Background, See:
- July 18: “Council to Ponder More Layoffs, Ending Garbage Pickup”
- June 21: “Cuts to Township Brush Collection Schedule Proposed”
- June 11: “Township to Seek 'Voluntary Contributions' from Tax-Exempt Organizations”
- May 24: "Amended Municipal Budget Adopted, Layoffs to Happen"
- May 24: "Letter to the Editor: 'Day of Reckoning' for Lawrence"
- May 18: “Letters to the Editor: Police Chief Should Retire”
- May 16: “Township Council Moves Forward With Layoff Plan”
- May 14: “Letter to the Editor: ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship”
- May 2: “Patch Readers: No Cuts to Police”
- May 2: “Township Council to Decide Budget Changes by May 15”
- April 25: “Balancing Lawrence Township’s Budget”
- April 20: “Help the Council Balance the Budget”
- April 20: “Council Gets an Earful in Wake of Referendum's Defeat”
- April 18: "Tax Increase, School Budget Shot down by Voters"
- April 16: “Governor Weighs in on Municipal Tax Referendum”
- April 16: “Sample Ballot for Tuesday’s Election Contains Error”
- April 13: “Letter to the Editor: Resident Opposed to Tax Hike Urges Council to 'Go Back to Drawing Board'”
- April 12: “Municipal Tax Referendum Forum to be Held Tonight”
- April 11: “Letter to the Editor: Township Manager Explains 'Need' for Tax Referendum's Approval”
- April 10: "Letter to the Editor: Municipal Tax Referendum is 'Best Option to Preserve Services With the Least Cost'"
- April 2: "Residents Grill Township Officials on Tax Referendum"
- March 28: “School Budget, Municipal Tax Referendum Subjects of Rival Meetings Thursday”
- March 26: “Municipal Budget Introduced, Stage Set for Tax Increase Referendum”
- March 26: “Last Chance to Register to Vote for School Board & Tax Referendum”
- March 20: “Township Manager Answers Tax Referendum Questions”
- March 14: “Trash ‘User Fee’ Would Be Mandatory If Tax Referendum Is Voted Down”
- March 8: “Usage Rate for Sewer Bill to Increase 15 Percent”
- Feb. 23: “36 Layoffs, Recreation Cuts Rejected by Town Council”
- Feb. 9: “Details of Tax Referendum, Other Alternatives Given”
- Jan. 18: “Township Manager Presents Proposed 2012 Budget, Recommends Referendum to Exceed Tax Increase Cap”