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Fieldsboro police dept. to dissolve

Nov 02, 2015 06:08AM ● Published by Community News Service

By Aliza Alperin-Sherriff

Fieldsboro is set to dissolve its police department and enter a shared services agreement for police protection with Bordentown City by the end of the year. 

Mayor David Hansell of Fieldsboro said that the reason is purely financial.

It will save the borough around $32,000 per year.

Hansell said that Fieldsboro currently plans to use the money saved from disbanding the police department to invest in necessary improvements, including road work.

Another benefit of the shared services agreement is that Fieldsboro will have better, more comprehensive coverage at night. Because officers receive minimum wage, the borough has been very flexible in terms of allowing officers to have other jobs.

However, complicated work schedules resulted in not having a steady flow of officers on duty to patrol at night. Instead, residents would have to reach out to the state police if something came up. Under the upcoming agreement, there will be a police presence in Fieldsboro 24 hours a day.

Hansell first came up with the idea of entering a shared services agreement with another municipality a few years ago when he realized that Fieldsboro was paying for officers’ police academy training only to have the officers leave the department not long after they joined.

At the time, he suggested to the council that Fieldsboro enter a shared services agreement with Bordentown Township. However, the council considered the idea a nonstarter.

Early this year Hansell once again brought up the idea of entering a shared services agreement with Bordentown Township. This time council, was more receptive, but its members suggested that the agreement be entered with Bordentown City instead.

Hansell believes that the council members felt that Fieldsboro had more in common with the city than the township. “There’s a smaller town feel to the police department,” he said. He added that while the quoted cost ranges were similar in the township and the city ($28,000 to $30,000), the city included animal control and an emergency management deputy coordinator as part of the deal, while the township would have made those services available, just at an additional charge.

Another worry for the council and Fieldsboro residents was that if they did business with the Township, it might be the beginning of consolidation. In addition to disbanding the police department, the township also wanted Fieldsboro to disband the court and adopt township ordinances. But borough residents feel strongly about .2-sq.-mile Fieldsboro remaining its own municipality.

“There’s a lot of resistance in the town to being taken over by the Township. The residents like being a separate entity,” said Hansell.

Fears of consolidation following the agreement were also alleviated by the fact Fieldsboro doesn’t border the city. It does, however, border the township.

Because the police force is being disbanded and not absorbed into the city police department, current Fieldsboro police officers, two full-time employees and four part-time, will be laid off.

Joseph Conlin, Fieldsboro’s Public Safety Director, said that the council has already given officers permission to seek employment elsewhere. Hansell confirmed that the borough will not try and stop officers from leaving before the agreement becomes official if they find new positions that begin before Dec. 31, when the department is set to be disbanded.

While Conlin called the agreement a “good move for Fieldsboro,” he expressed disappointment that the department is being disbanded. He said that he understands that the decision was financial. “It’s a shame that the town is so small that there is no wiggle room in the budget,” he said.

Conlin noted that the police department never went over budget and that at the end of the year, any leftover money was used to make up for other places where the council had gone over budget. In the end, it came down to the fact that the police department simply occupied a large part of the budget that was easy to cut. Conlin explained that many police officers considered working in Fieldsboro to be a stepping stone in their careers, and that many officers around the county including Westampton police chief Joseph Otto, got their start in the department. “Overall there’s some disappointment, but they understand what’s happening,” Conlin said.
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