As reported in the Burlington County Times, a controversial ordinance to revise the local code to create a Civilian Police Director’s position has been put on hold. The Pemberton Township Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to table a vote on the ordinance and create a subcommittee to research and review the position of Civilian Police director, which was one of several proposed changes related to the Police Department.
The council reached the decision following a lengthy public hearing featuring dissent from the local police officers’ union and from several of the two dozen residents who attended the meeting. Among their complaints was that the language in the ordinance could easily be misinterpreted, and that the measure would create more animosity and mistrust between Mayor David Patriarca and the police force.
PBA Local #260. the collective negotiations unit that represents the rank and file officers employed by the Township, is embroiled in several disputes with Patriarca. The Union argued that the director’s position is redundant, and that some of the proposed code changes would make it easier for the mayor to terminate the Chief of Police. “We’re concerned that down the road the Chief of Police will be abolished and a director will already be in place, but without the same protections a Chief has to work solely for the citizens of the township,” said Detective Jason Watters, president of PBA Local #260.
Officials said the proposed changes were an overdue update of the local code to make it compatible with state laws and the Township’s form of government, which, under the Faulkner Act, empowers the Mayor to appoint a head to oversee management of each municipal department. Presently within the Township the Police Department is the only Department without an appointed director.
Under the proposed ordinance, the Civilian Police Director would be appointed by the Mayor, with the Council’s consent, and would oversee management of the department, its budget, procedures, personnel matters and policies. The proposal specifies that the Police Chief would remain part of the department’s command structure and in charge of day-to-day operations of the force and its officers. Also, the Chief would be eligible for appointment to police director without additional compensation. However, as we have seen in the past, Township Committee’s often find the service’s duplicative when there is a Civilian director as well as a uniformed Chief in place. In many situations, the Chief will be terminated in deference to the Civilian Director running the Department. we will keep you posted as we learn more about this situation.