NJ Police Agencies 11% Smaller; Community Policing May Suffer


It has been a rough year for New Jersey police, says the Newark Star-Ledger. Layoffs in two high-crime cities – Camden and Newark – received lots of attention, but smaller departments are dealing with similar staff reductions and facing similar challenges. Hiring freezes combined with attrition, and in some cases layoffs, have caused municipal police departments to shrink about 11 percent between Jan. 1, 2009 and Sept. 10, 2010, says the PBA, which represents officers in 423 of New Jersey's 566 municipalities. Those layoffs mean 2,228 fewer officers across the state.

“The good starting point is where isn't this happening,” said Mitchell Sklar of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. It is highly unlikely crime rates will skyrocket in sleepy suburban towns, said John Shane, a former Newark police captain now on the faculty of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Chiefs warn – and Shane agrees – the ancillary functions and community services police provide could fall by the wayside. School resource officers are being reassigned to patrol duties, police have less time for educational programs, and detectives are being taken away from their desks and put back on the streets. Symbolism is also important, Sklar said. Police cars out and about can deter criminals and reassure citizens. “It means a lot to the community that depends on that department,” he said. “Community policing still has to be done in a proactive way.” That is simply harder to do with fewer officers, police officials say.

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