As reported by, the Freehold Township Police Department has new sign at its front window: “Due to staffing issues, this window may be closed throughout the day. If this is an emergency, use the red telephone.” It’s literally a sign of the times, as police departments throughout New Jersey continue to cope with the ongoing consequences of a deep recession and budget cuts.

The problem is that officers who retire are not being replaced, often because municipalities do not have the money to hire more police. So, for police chiefs or department directors, the challenge is maintaining adequate levels of protection. But, the financial belt-tightening has visibly translated into divisions being merged, administrative bureaus being closed and officers being reassigned from desk jobs back to patrolling the streets. In some instances, specialized police units are being depleted in order to ensure that enough officers are on the streets and available to respond to emergencies.

What is clear is that the ranks of New Jersey police are growing thinner. The State overall has seen a loss of 3,400 officers since January 1, 2010, according to State Policemen’s Benevolent Association representative James Ryan. Much of that is due to attrition, he said. Officers who qualify for retirement choose to leave, rather than deal with the ongoing conflict in Trenton over pensions and benefits for public employees.

Depending on the size of a particular municipality, the impact of the retirements can translate into a sizable chunk of the police force going away. In Freehold Township, for instance, seven officers have retired during the past 14 months. That amounts to 10 percent of the force and none of them will be replaced according to Administrator Peter Valessi. The numbers vary around the state, but they all tell a similar story.

In Woodbridge, 24 officers, or nearly 10 percent of the force, retired in 2010. In Red Bank, three officers retired and three special officers who serve one year terms were not rehired, decreasing uniformed police in that department by 13 percent. In Freehold township, departmental changes have increased the responsibilities of patrol officers, who now respond to motor vehicle accidents, answer all types of calls, and run radar stops on roads, said local PBA president William Gallo.

“Everyone has to do a little more now,” Gallo said, “whether that’s answering more calls, taking care of accidents or radar. We are making do.” Ryan, the state PBA representative, said that trend is becoming more widespread, as officers in special operations, including the anti-drug DARE programs, school resource officers and detective divisions, are moved to patrol duty. “We are worried, and I’m not trying to be a fearmongerer here, about a rise in crime” he said.

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.