May 13, 2014 at 5:18 PM
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Two recent retirements of a top level administrator and sergeant have paved the way to hire three new police officers to patrol borough streets and provide a dedicated pedestrian and traffic safety officer.
“In effect, we’re replacing two bodies with three officers,” Police Chief Anthony Buccelli said.
The position of Deputy Police Chief will not be replaced leaving Buccelli, Captain Wayne Maurer and Lt. Theresa Gazaway as the top administrative officers.
Three probationary police officers took the oath of office on Monday. They are Michael Carlino, Thomas Hoppe and Mark Pawelek.
By adding three new police officers at the patrol level, Buccelli said the department will be able to keep-up with a burst of construction activity that includes 24 new residential units at Foley Square and a 360-unit continuing-care center at Lantern Hill which is slated for completion in the fall of 2015.
The recent opening of Starbucks in the Village Shopping Center, pending openings of a farmers market, health center at the refurbished Shoppes at New Providence and the Berkeley Aquatics Center on Central Avenue will increase public safety needs, Buccelli said.
With the economy turning downward in 2008-09, borough officials were forced to curtail many services, furlough some employees and, in some cases, avoid filling vacant positions. The Police Department dropped from an authorized strength of 26 officers to 23. The recent changes will restore one of those positions.
Lost in 2008 was a full-time traffic officer with those responsibilities being shared across-the-board.
“It was difficult to do and some things went by the wayside,” Buccelli said. “Patrol Officers can’t always focus on one detail because they get pushed and pulled in many directions.”
The police chief said a dedicated traffic officer would be assigned to specific situations and targeted enforcement with emphasis on pedestrian safety in crosswalks and parking issues in and around borough schools.
The three new police officer positions have been filled after two interviews with some 60 applicants. The first round of interviews were conducted by Buccelli, Maurer and Gazaway. That list was whittled down to six candidates that were also interviewed by Public Safety Committee members, Council President Michael Gennaro and Councilman Dr. Bob Robinson. Each of the three new-hires has an extensive law enforcement background.
Buccelli was appreciative of the support from Mayor J. Brooke Hern, the Borough Council and, especially, the men and women of his command who have helped fill the void over the past few years.