NJ shore towns need more seasonal officers
Only a few years ago, an orientation session for folks who were interested in becoming a seasonal police officer would typically field up to 200 people in Point Pleasant Beach.
Now, the department is lucky to see more than 30 individuals at a session. So the department has to host more than one during the hiring process in order to collect an adequate pool of qualified applicants.
"The interest isn't really there, for this profession, as it used to be," said Police Chief Robert Kowalewski.
With that in mind, the department is already beginning the process of securing special law enforcement officers for summer 2023. It can no longer rely on word of mouth to attract individuals, Kowalewski said. Job announcements are being posted on social media, and the department is attending college job fairs to promote the employment opportunities.
"The numbers of special officers that seasonal towns like Point Pleasant Beach rely on have been becoming more and more difficult to attain as the years go by," said Mayor Paul Kanitra.
Towns can take on both Class I and Class II special officers. The latter are permitted to carry a firearm and can perform duties that are more in line with those of a regular police officer. Class I officers are typically relied on for traffic duties, spectator control and similar jobs.
Either opportunity, officials say, is seen as a stepping stone by those interested in a career in law enforcement. But that interest appears to be waning.
"I think the number one reason is, police are looked down on. They're villainized," said Mickie McComb, a retired New Jersey State Trooper and a police liability expert based in Cape May County.
Add the risk involved with taking the job, even as a seasonal cop, and it's easy to see why interest is dwindling, he said.
"When you put that uniform on, there's a huge responsibility and liability that comes with it," McComb said.
The pay earned by special officers is also considered to be a factor. Point Pleasant Beach recently moved to increase pay for Class II officers to $16 per hour, after seeing their officers leave the position just to accept one in a nearby town.
"I believe it will help us in the long run," Kowalewski said.
Hourly pay in Point Pleasant Beach for Class I officers is $14.
Class I officers are paid close to $22 per hour in Brick Township. According to Police Chief James Riccio, the department has not seen less demand for the job. Brick does not currently have Class II positions.