NJ lawmaker’s ‘shared patrol’ idea aims to cut your property taxes
If neighboring police departments just learned how to share, maybe your next property tax bill would be a bit smaller, one lawmaker says.
Attacking current approaches to shared services as "awful," Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, is pushing a plan that he says would result in more efficient policing and savings for taxpayers.
Under O'Scanlon's solution — which is just an idea, not legislation — neighboring municipalities can enter "shared patrol models" that enable officers of each town to extend their patrol areas into each other member town.
The idea targets smaller departments in New Jersey that O'Scanlon calls over-policed. Using Middletown as an example of a right-sized department, O'Scanlon said, there are 3.2 officers per square mile and 506 residents per officer — compared to many smaller towns that have more than 5 officers per mile and under 350 residents per officer.
Right away, O'Scanlon said, overtime costs would be eliminated because each police department would have more officers scheduled than necessary to cover the combined patrol areas. And, over time, more savings would be realized through attrition as there may be no need to replace a missing body.
"We want to avoid layoffs," O'Scanlon told New Jersey 101.5. "We have to respect our cops. When these guys join a force, they pretty much sign up for life, and we have to be cognizant of that."
According to O'Scanlon, police services typically account for 20 percent of a municipality's budget, and cutting that in half would "remove a huge amount of pressure" from property taxes each year.
"There are very few things out there that can save substantial dollars like this," he said.
As a bonus, he added, cops get to patrol more space and add some variety to the same route they've been driving 10 hours a day, three to five days a week.
But according to South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka, who's also a spokesman for the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, O'Scanlon's idea is "not very realistic."
"Municipal agencies — they all have different policies and procedures on how matters are handled," Hayducka said. "Policy manuals are very big. How are you going to hold a police officer to now two sets of policies because he's working in another town?"
Hayducka said O'Scanlon has good intentions with his proposal, but the assemblyman needs more facts to understand what can and can't work.
"I do not know of any department that is overstaffed," he continued. "During the economic crisis, a lot of police departments downsized and they're still trying to catch up."
Residents do not want to be policed by another town, Hayducka said, and that adds to the list of complications.
O'Scanlon said he's interested in discussing his proposal with officials beyond district borders and throughout the Garden State.
If towns give the shared model a shot and it doesn't work out, it can be undone, O'Scanlon said. The infrastructure still exists for each independent force.
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