Washington Township will move forward with the hiring of a new police officer now that the department is losing one member to retirement and another for the short term due to a medical procedure.
Police Chief Michael Bailey presented the department's needs to the township committee Monday night at the governing body’s regular meeting, explaining how lean the department was becoming.
“We’re losing one officer to permanent disability, early retirement due to an incident that occurred here in town, and another will be out four to five months for shoulder surgery,” Bailey said. “On top of that, we have three senior officers scheduled to retire in the next two years.”
Bailey, who is one of those senior officers scheduled to retire, requested the township consider bringing in two officers to begin filling the void that is being opened on the squad.
The process, however, isn’t a simple one. The department will now begin running tests for candidates. Once those tests results are complete, he or she will then go through the police academy.
At the earliest, a full time officer would not be patrolling Washington Township until June of 2013, Bailey said.
Four of the five committeemen–James LiaBraaten was absent–gave the go ahead to Bailey to begin the search. One committeeman thought it would be prudent to take an additional step.
Dave Kennedy, a former police captain, recommended the department come up with a list of potential candidates so that testing can be ready in the case that need be addressed again in the future.
“We should have a list (of potential candidates) ready,” Kennedy said. “There aren’t many places hiring, but there are plenty of qualified candidates out there right now.”
"We should definitely begin the search for one, and most likely look for two (officers)," Vice Mayor and police commissioner Bill Roehrich said. "Working with these guys and seeing what they're doing... We're getting close to the bone here."
Short term pain, long term gain
In the meantime, the 28-member police force will be down two full time officers. It’s already been shorthanded since March, when the officer going into early retirement was injured in the line of duty.
Until a new officer is added, current staff members will be needed to cover additional shifts, which will force overtime payments to mount.
“My concern is the overtime,” Mayor Ken Short said. “(The overtime) is going to be more expensive than the actual salary of an officer.”
Under contract, police officers receive time and-a-half pay for going beyond their shift or covering other shifts when necessary.
The recently awarded PBA contract states that a new Washington Township police officer beginning in 2013 after completing the academy will receive a starting salary of $48,889.
The testing process for a new candidate will begin immediately.