BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - An ordinance to amend the current structure of the Berkeley Heights Police Department under the township's administrative code was introduced by the Berkeley Heights Town Council at a meeting on Tuesday night at Borough Hall. All board members voted for the ordinances introduction except for Councilman John Bonacci
The idea to change the structure of the police department came from Berkeley Heights Mayor Robert Woodruff who asked Police Captain Tom Schaefer and Mathis to look into the structure of the department and make recommendations. Mathis informed the council that the current structure under which the department operates under is insufficient and that it must be changed as soon as possible. Mathis put together the new structure along with the help of Captain Schaefer, other police officers and professionals within the town's public safety department, and he believes this proposed structure will be effective and provide better safety in Berkeley Heights.
Under the new structure the Berkeley Heights Chief of Police will be in charge of the entire department. Schaefer, serving the police captain's role, is subordinated by a patrol division under which two lieutenants will work. The lieutenants will be in charge of four platoons that consist of a sergeant, three patrol men and one dispatcher.
Also subordinate to Schaefer is the traffic safety committee which will be in charge of the crossing guards employed by the town, under the new proposed structure. A support services bureau is the third subdivision underneath Schaefer. In this division there will be a detective sergeant who is in charge of two detectives and a juvenile bureau in which two detectives will work.
"This structure will allow for better supervision that would demonstrate to younger officers how to be leaders," Mathis informed the council.
There are currently 24 police officers employed by Berkeley Heights and, although the proposed structure calls for 26 officers, Mathis told the council that certain positions will be double shifted in order to fill the would be vacant roles. He also said that he would waive any future salary increases within his position if the town decides that two more lieutenants need to be hired.
"We need the department to operate a certain way. This town needs Berkeley Heights cops on the road in order to protect the citizens," Mathis said.
Mathis continued, saying that at least one lieutenant or sergeant will be working every shift in the newly proposed structure. The lieutenant shifts, under the new structure, will overlap and have a staggered time start. The day shift and the night shift for this position is a 12 hour working day.
Mathis also mentioned to the council that all of the officers within the police department are excited about the new structure and the new direction it will take the department in better serving the needs of Berkeley Heights residents. He also approached the PBA with the idea. There are currently talks between the department and the PBA about plans for promotions within this new process, according to Mathis.
"We want to move past the obstacles of our current structure and the way we operate. We want to move forward with this because we care about Berkeley Heights," Mathis said. "You will see that our department will run better than ever."
When Mayor Woodruff asked Mathis whether, in his professional opinion, the newly proposed structure would better provide for the safety of Berkeley Heights residents, Mathis responded with an emphatic yes.