Chief William Nally of the Lacey Township Police Department presented his requests for the 2011 municipal budget to the committee at the budget workshop meeting.
“It is not a budget that provides for the proper police protection and services this town deserves,” Nally said. “We’re out of our bare bones, borderline dangerous, proposal developed under strict guidelines and parameters.”
Nally expressed dismay towards the cuts that have been made over the last few years claiming that the police department is understaffed and has restrictive budgets while facing increasing demands for services.
“I have told you that at some point police service would be affected but that time has arrived,” Nally said.
As the town continues to grow, the police department continues to shrink, seeing an increase in transient and full-time population, increase in commercial development, increase traffic condition, these factors and others combined with a reduction in the force contributes to increased traffic violations which are not addressed, injury accidents, less officer time for proactive law enforcement, Nally said.
Nally sited recent statistics to support his argument.
There have been five fatal accidents in two years, one of which occurred in 2011. There has been a 45 percent increase in violent crime, a 50 percent increase in robberies and aggravated assaults, and a 12 percent increase in reported thefts.
“We have an inability to combat the increase in drug related issues,” Nally said. “Proactive enforcement is at a minimum and most of them are done because we receive tips from citizens.”
The department also has developed an increase response time and the inability to address traffic complaints, to provide presence at school and community events, to assist civic and religious organizations, ant to investigate crimes in a timely manner, Nally said.
In addition to the increasing need for police response, the police department has 42 sworn officers and is currently operating with 37, Nally said. This is the lowest number the department has seen in a decade.
The police department is operating at 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents, which is below Ocean County’s and the national average, which range between 2 and 2.5 officers per 1,000 based on a population of 27,000.
To be proactive, the department should be operating with 54 officers, Nally said.
Nally refused to make layoffs unless ordered by the committee.
“I will not do that. I believe it’s unsafe. I believe we are at minimum manpower now for what we need to accomplish to reduce anything that’s going to in my opinion cause potential tragedies,” Nally said.
He explained that a median assessed home is about $3,018, costing a homeowner approximately $582 in tax. Of that, Nally claimed 30 percent. But if $500,000 was to be cut from the police departments budget, which is approximately four to five officers, a taxpayer would save $31.82 a year, Nally said.
“I’m here to tell you that further cuts to the police department will significantly affect our ability to serve the public. I’m here to tell you that any thoughts of layoffs will be done over my strong objection and should be interpreted as an indifference to the safety of the public,” Nally said.
Reducing overtime would jeopardize closing some cases, Committeeman Dave Most said. This would force Nally to reduce calls that detectives take, he said.
The department is also operating with six dispatchers three less then the schedule requires, forcing an increase in police officers having to staff the function, Nally said.
The cost budgeted for overtime for police officers has increased by 25 percent with the anticipation of doing more proactive drug work.
Nally mentioned the possibility of purchasing a more technologically advanced reporting system that involves residents e-mailing, a quick review, and an automatic upload into the records but that costs at least $25,000, he said.
“Just so you understand the pickle that we’re in as far as our jobs concerned. I understand your police side of it. You’re doing fantastic work with what you have. But we’re under a 2 percent cap here and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in and you have to understand that,” Most said.
Mayor Gary Quinn added that although the 2 percent cap limits the township, public safety remains the key to the governing body and the community.
“I don’t think there’s a person on this committee that would not want to see 10 more police officers on the road. We’re all certainly aware of the fact that we need them,” Quinn said. “We would want to see it happen but in these economic times, we’ve been very fortunate as a township not to have to layoff any police officers.”
Nally recognized that all township departments are doing more with less but emphasized the importance of the public’s safety.
“You need to understand our priorities. You need to understand that our first responsibility is to the community,” Nally said.
Below are some of the points Nally made regarding the police departments proposed budget request:
- The police salary and wages remained the same while the administration salaries and wages was reduced by $216,800.
- Police overtime increased by $30,000, which Nally credits the reduction in staffing and on the job injuries (OJI).
- Special Police and Clerical remains static.
- Dispatcher salaries decreased by over $100,000 but overtime is up $40,000 due to three full-time vacancies.
- The police operating expense is down 12 percent from 2010 and over 59 percent since 2008.
- Communications is operating with a 33 percent reduction in force.
More details on the police department's proposed budget will be provided in the upcoming weeks. Check back at Lacey Patch for information on other township departments that presented their budget requests at Thursday's budget workshop meeting.