18 Oct ***CMC Herald*** FOP Labor Counsel Inquires about Police Supervision
WEST WILDWOOD – A representative of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police (NJFOP) representing FOP Lodge 7 in Wildwood, traveled from Trenton Oct. 7 to ask the West Wildwood Board of Commissioners about the supervision of a Special Law Enforcement Officer (Class II).
Ron Bakley, who said he serves as labor counsel for the NJFOP, told the commissioners it was his understanding that a Class II officer was patrolling West Wildwood at night.
“I don’t want you to open up West Wildwood to a liability suit, but as you are aware, a Class II must be supervised by a full-time officer,” Bakley said.
“They are – it’s in the agreement,” Mayor Matthew Ksiazek responded.
Under the agreement created with the City of Wildwood, the Wildwood Police Department would provide one officer to the Borough of West Wildwood to cover the hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Per the memorandum of understanding between the municipalities, the Class II officer covering West Wildwood would be supervised by an officer in Wildwood. That agreement was approved by the West Wildwood Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Joseph Segrest proposed an amendment saying it would expire on Dec. 31.
Bakley addressed the police staffing shortage that has made it necessary to seek assistance from a neighboring municipality. Bakley said that about seven years ago, the borough had eight to 10 full-time officers.
Commissioner John Banning, the borough’s director of Public Safety, has declined to say how many officers are on staff in West Wildwood. The borough’s website lists the chief, one sergeant, and four patrol officers.
Banning repeated his comments from a previous meeting Oct. 7, saying there were several resignations, and there are several officers now in the academy. Banning responded to Bakley’s comment of previously having eight to 10 officers, saying, “We are already working toward increasing the number.”
Bakley commented that nationally there has been a 63% decrease in the number of people applying for police officer jobs.
He said there has been dissatisfaction among the ranks of police officers saying, “On the police end, they are not getting the support of their administrators.”
A member of the public asked if the police chief and sergeant patrol the borough. They suggested having Police Chief Diane Ferentz patrol at night.
Banning replied that Ferentz and Sgt. James Dodd are both entitled to time off. Asked by another member of the public why officers were resigning from the department, Banning said the reasons vary; however, he said there are issues inherent to being a small department, such as there being limited opportunities for promotion.
He also said that there is a lack of duties that might keep them interested. He said in places such as West Wildwood, the work is not stimulating in the winter months.
Residents asked about methods for keeping officers on staff, such as requiring them to sign a commitment to work for a prescribed period of time.
Banning said the borough is asking them for an initial two-year commitment. Asked what the starting pay is for an officer in West Wildwood, Banning said between $34,000 and $35,000 per year.
The borough is paying Wildwood $55 per hour for a Class II officer per the agreement. He said the hourly rate covers the officer, the use of a vehicle, gas, liability and supervision.