Green Brook PBA Agrees: Police Merger Not Worth It
Green Brook PBA President Adam Seidel agrees with Watchung residents on police consolidation.
Green Brook PBA President, Officer Adam Seidel shared sentiments that Watchung residents shared on Monday, that the proposed police consolidation just doesn’t seem worth it.
“I agree with them. Like them, I don’t see the benefit to the residents,” Officer Seidel said in an interview on Wednesday. “I don’t know who would benefit. It’s strange that the quote, ‘no savings and less police—it's a strange combination’, was exactly what the PBA thought. The quote is dead on!”
Officer Seidel mentioned a few things that he specifically noticed in the report that were particularly alarming to him.
“One of the biggest issues that I noticed, they mentioned keeping individual programs,” Officer Seidel explained. “For example, Watchung has a patrol car follow school buses. (The report) said programs like that would be kept, but what is interesting is that if Watchung is part of district 2 (the precinct in the county's proposed consololidation plan), how would you justify only a Watchung school bus followed when the others won’t be? Another example is that North Plainfield has police officers when they get out of school, but others still won't.”
Officer Seidel explained the problem is that these questions, among many others, were never addressed in the report.
“These things were never addressed,” he said. “How would that be staffed? Is it overtime or just part of on-duty? This is obviously something that would be addressed later, but it hasn’t been until now, and now is when we are making the decision to say yes or no. Those are just a couple examples of rather diverse policies that each municipality has. No municipality is the same.”
He continued, “You need a commonality of policy, in an agency as large and far-reaching as a police consolidation. That’s where we feel that the residents of each town will lose out. You're going to lose out on these specific benefits that these towns already have in place.”
When asked if Offcer Seidel saw anything positive in the report, his answer was pretty short.
“I think a great positive is a D.A.R.E officer program for every town in the consolidation,” he said. “Beyond that, I honestly haven’t seen anything positive. I don’t see how spreading your man power thinner benefits anybody.”
“Residents lose powers," Officer Seidel continued. "If it’s a county-wide department, the town councils won’t have the ability to influence budgets and what not. You don’t have the localized control anymore, because it’s no longer local.”
Officer Seidel also said that many officers chose to work in a smaller police station, rather than a bigger ones, which is what is being proposed.
“Many of these officers in these towns had the choice to go to a bigger township, but we chose to have a smaller one to have a more intimate knowledge of the citizens and the environment that we work in,” he said proudly. “We feel that we are more effective at our jobs if we are members of that community. You get to know the people that you are working for, that you're protecting. That’s a major benefit lost in this proposal.”
Offcier Seidel actually believes that the consolidation report resembled something that has been put into place in a few other states already.
“When I first heard about it, it seemed that it was patterned after what other states had done, such as in California, Florida and Georgia,” he said. “Now those places are trying to get away from that idea, yet we are going to it.”
The report says that Green Brook proposes establishing a precinct with North Plainfield, Watchung and Warren. A total of 133 officers would serve a population of 50,981 spread over 33.1 miles. That comes out to a total of 2.6 officers per thousand residents. According to the report, the precinct would also have the highest crime rate of the five precincts, with 22.94 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Surprisingly, Officer Seidel believes that the 2.6 officers per 1,000 isn’t that much different then it is now and doesn’t see how it is a benefit to Green Brook.
“I would guess Green Brook is probably in that ball park now,” Officer Seidel reported. “If you have 2.3 officers per 1,000 over 4.6 miles and 2.6 officers per 1,000 over 33 miles, for a comparative level of cost, you're losing out. That same ratio is being spread from 4.6 miles to 33 miles.”
Officer Seidel believes that local is something to be proud of, rather than a generalized 33 mile radius.
“I feel that smaller towns should be proud of the fact that they have municipal buildings,” he said proudly. “It helps identify the town. It’s a central location that everybody knows about. If something is wrong, they know where to go to. It’s not a couple miles off Route 22, it’s right across the street.”
Officer Seidel also reported that he isn’t the only one that has this belief.
“From talking to different people from different towns, residents and police officers, the general consensus is that many towns were moving away from the idea,” he said.
The deadline for each municipality's decision is Aug. 1.
The Watchung PBA did not have an official statement at time of publication.