Vernon police looking to add officers

PD plans to add 1 more this year and 2 more in 2015 to bolster department

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Vernon PD Hiring Plan

Current staff: 29 officers
Already hired in 2014: 1 officer
Planned hiring in 2014: 1 officer.
Planned hiring in 2015: 2 officers

The Vernon Police Department is seeking to hire three more police officers over the next two years.

Police Chief Randy Mills told the Township Council at a Jan. 6 budget work session the department plans to add one more patrol officer to the force in 2014 and two more in 2015.

Mills said the police force has 29 members, and if the department's employment ever dropped below 28, it could lose at least a portion of its $60,000 in grant money.

"That's the lowest we've been in a long time," Mills said. "We've been at a peak of 34, and if we had 34 we would be able to do a lot."

Mills said the department tries to schedule four patrol officers per shift, but said three was mostly the normal.

"Certain times of the year that doesn't leave a lot of time for proactive police work," he said. "We're literally reacting to what's happening in town."

As the department's staff stands now, three more new hires over the course of two years would bring the department to 32 officers, but that's before retirements enter the equation. Mills said two officers can retire at any time, and five more officers are eligible to retire in 2015.

"I don't expect them all to go, but I am pretty sure at least two or three of them are going," Mills said.

Councilman Patrick Rizzuto asked about the department's ability to combat the area's drug problem with the staffing issues, but Mills said they are getting officers into the detective bureau that have the ability to combat drug offenses. Mills also said the department might want to get back involved with the county Narcotics Task Force, but current staffing leaves it unable to do so.

"Until we start talking about getting that 31st, 32nd, and maybe even 33rd officer, we really can't afford to give an officer to the task force full-time," Mills said. "It would just a create a vacancy and vacancies lead to overtime and overtime adds up quickly."

One area where they department has been able to save money has been at the dispatch center where the department has previously had seven full-time dispatchers. The department has won concessions from the union, allowing management to turn seven full-timers into five full-time positions and three part-time positions, saving on wages and health benefits, and creating scheduling flexibility.

Overall, there was a 1.7 percent overall increase in the police department's budget, despite 2 percent raises for officers according to the collective-bargaining agreement.

"This is your largest expenditure as a town government, and now for the third year in a row, we will be increasing our budget without a significant increase in cost," Mayor Victor Marotta said. "That's a compliment to leadership as well as the team that makes up the Police Department. I am confident with the team we have together. As we add patrol officers, we will do it an a way that does not break the budget."

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