BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Questions still persist regarding Bridgewater Township’s police force and its manpower situation.
Council president Matthew Moench said at the council’s April 15 meeting that he thought a request for a police consultant was supposed to be a case for going out to public bid, and not the police chief obtaining those bids on his own.
Earlier this year, the council voted to hire two new police officers, even though police chief Alfred Nicaretta had asked the council late last year to allow him to hire six new officers in 2019, and six more in 2020, for a total of 12 new officers.
The council did not vote that same evening to hire a police consultant to study the department, although it members expressed a desire to secure one to examine the police department’s workings regarding sufficient manpower.
Moench had asked at the council’s April 11 agenda session about a request for proposals for a police study, which said had been requested about six weeks prior. Township administrator James Naples said the chief had submitted several quotes, to which Moench said he would like to have the names and information of those companies.
Naples said he could have them “very shortly.”
Naples reiterated four days later that the chief did make some solicitations himself, but was out of town at the time of the council meeting and was not available to answer questions. Moench countered that without council input, any bids obtained might be rejected, while Naples replied that he would get more information when the chief returned.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said councilman Filipe Pedroso, who said the consultant should be an independent party, and not one selected by the police chief.
Pedroso had said earlier this year that he wanted to find out the cost to taxpayers, and then the council would hire the consultant, as he himself often utilized consultants in his own profession.
Pedroso said that having the council hire a consultant was not just a police question, but a common sense business practice, which he added that the town’s mayor did not have.
“It brings up all sorts of questions,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Naples said that Pedroso was making assumptions when the chief was not present to defend himself, and that he was also was blaming the mayor when the mayor was not involved. Pedroso responded that the mayor is the “boss,” and should be both aware and involved.
Bridgewater resident Michael Kirsh asked during the meeting’s public portion what was the approximate cost of hiring a single new police officer. Naples said he did not have that figure off the top of his head, while Moench said it might be around $120,000.
Kirsh asked if there would be recurring expenses after the hire, and was told yes.
As a resident, Kirsh said he thought it would be an independent and impartial study, and that without a fair and open bidding process, residents were “not getting much of their money’s worth.”
Kirsh expressed his disappointment, and also said the administration was not following a majority of the council.