Dear Brigantine Resident:
With the pending retirement of your local Chief of Police, your local elected officials are contemplating the elimination of the top sworn police rank in your municipal police department, to be replaced by a civilian political appointee. We respectfully assert that this is a misguided and costly idea, one that harms both the operation of your police department, and your pocket as a taxpayer.
By promoting a new Police Chief from within the department, your town could save virtually all of the money allocated to the current Chief’s salary. Instead, your local officials seem intent on adding an additional salary to the police payroll by bringing on a new employee, a civilian administrator confusingly called a “police director” or a “public safety director.”
Do not be misled by the title – such positions are completely civilian in nature, with no police powers or authority. State law severely restricts their authority and prevents them not only from exercising any police powers, but even restricts their access to law enforcement information, even preventing them from accessing confidential internal affairs investigation files.
In short, these civilian administrators (even if confusingly given a title like “police director”) are limited by law to routine tasks such as scheduling and public meetings, yet draw an executive salary. On the other hand, with a sworn Chief of Police the police department, and the local residents that pay for the department, get “2 – for 1” – a sworn police officers and a fully-functioning police administrator.
Several other jurisdictions have tried similar schemes. In many such situations, what followed was confused lines of authority or over-reaching by the civilian administrators (or their political patrons), crushed departmental morale, and not infrequently protracted and costly litigation.
Municipalities such as South Orange, Mount Holly, Plainsboro, Lakewood, Verona, Lavallette, Piscataway, Egg Harbor City, Lacey, Tinton Falls, Edgewater Park, Bridgewater, Florence, Lyndhurst, Keyport, Mansfield, Netcong, Asbury Park, Perth Amboy each experimented with heading their police departments with a civilian administrator. And each has, either following a longer or shorter experiment, abandoned their experiment and returned to leadership by a sworn, career Chief of Police.
We urge you to make your voice heard with your town’s elected officials. We respectfully ask that you tell them that promoting a Police Chief from within your police department is the right thing for your police department, the men and women who protect and serve the residents and visitors of your town, and most importantly to you, the local taxpayer.