24 Sep ***CMC Herald*** Wildwood to Temporarily Help West Wildwood’s Police
WEST WILDWOOD – The West Wildwood Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Sept. 21 authorizing the borough to enter a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Wildwood for supplemental police services.
Commissioner John Banning, who oversees the Department of Public Affairs and Public Safety for the borough, told residents they do not have enough officers available to cover West Wildwood 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He said over the last two weeks the borough has been working out an agreement to fill in the gaps. Banning said West Wildwood Police Department officers would cover the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. time frame, and a Class II officer with the Wildwood Police Department (WPD) would cover the borough from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning.
The resolution was amended during the meeting to have the MOU expire on Dec. 31.
Apparently, a key element of the agreement is police supervision. According to the MOU, a Class II officer will be assigned to patrol West Wildwood but will remain under the “command and control of the Wildwood Police Department Command Staff and Supervisors.”
Spencer Smith, president of Cape May County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 7, publicly asked who supervised patrol officers when the sergeant was off duty. Borough Solicitor Matthew Flinn said the commissioners would not answer questions about staffing and situational operations.
One week earlier, on Sept. 14, the City of Wildwood Board of Commissioners passed Resolution 261-9-22 authorizing the memorandum of understanding with West Wildwood, with services to begin on Monday, Sept. 19.
The agreement will be memorialized by the Wildwood Board of Commissioners on Sept. 28. Asked by the public why an agreement was established without the public being informed, Mayor Matthew Ksiazek said there was an effort to establish police coverage on a 24/7 basis.
At least 30 members of the public attended the morning workshop sessions and asked various questions about the arrangement.
Banning said the situation was made critical by resignations. He said the West Wildwood Police Department actually has its full complement of officers, however, some of them are in the academy. The first ones will graduate in early December. Under the MOU, West Wildwood will be paying $55 per hour for the WPD Class II officer.
“That is for the car, the gas, the supervision, etc.,” Banning said.
Asked for the specific cost, Banning said it would be close to the borough’s budgeted amount. Pressed for a number, he said the cost would be about $68,000.
Asked if the borough might keep the arrangement with Wildwood if it was to their liking, Banning said, “that’s not my goal.” He said if that were the case the borough would not have hired the officers who are in the academy.
Banning was asked if there was any consideration of dissolving the West Wildwood Police Department and establishing an interlocal agreement with Wildwood for police services. Banning said from day one as a commissioner he has said he would look at all options; however, right now, he is looking to fully staff the department.
Banning declined to say what a full complement of officers was, citing security and personnel policy reasons. The borough’s website lists a chief, one sergeant and three patrol officers. There appears to be no one to supervise officers 24 hours per day.
Asked why the chief of police could not fill in where there are gaps in the police coverage, Banning said Police Chief Jackie Ferentz would not be able to do that alone.
“She is already working her shift, using overtime…people are entitled to their time off,” Banning said.
West Wildwood resident Stacy Mackle told the commissioners that the borough had allowed one officer to work overnight without an immediate supervisor. The solicitor responded by saying the borough is trying to comply with state regulations.