GLEN ROCK, NJ - The Borough Council introduced an ordinance to require background checks for volunteer emergency service workers.
On May 30, the council passed the ordinance on first reading, with the public hearing scheduled for June 13.
"I want to thank the different chiefs, Chief Esposito and Chief Jennings for looking at these types of ordinances and tweaking them to make it work for us," Mayor Bruce Packer said.
During the public portion of the meeting, resident Gabriel Bolero suggested the Arboretum volunteers be included in the required background checks because "they work so closely with children."
"Our volunteer emergency services (FIRE, EMS and OEM) deserve a lot of credit for bringing this issue to the forefront," Police Chief Dean Ackermann said in an email after the May 30 council meeting. "It is their desire to ensure that each new member has been properly vetted to protect both the community and the volunteer organization. It was their desire to address this issue before there was a problem, not in response to a problem."
Ackermann pointed out that currently, "even volunteer coaches for schools and recreation programs go through background checks."
"Thirty years ago we had robust volunteer emergency services volunteers many of whom we part a family legacies – fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, aunts, uncles and other relatives who served for generations," Ackermann said. "Many of our volunteers knew each other from just about birth! Good or bad, new members walked through the door already well known.
"Today, while there are still many family members serving, Glen Rock’s population is much more varied with many new comers," he said. "We are lucky that this influx of newcomers are willing to volunteer, however, we owe it to the community to ensure that proper background checks have been done.
"In order to for this process to be accomplished, an ordinance must be in effect at the local level to ensure that all volunteers are treated equally and provide for proper authorization," Ackermann said. "While our emergency services are made up of volunteers, they are held to the same standards as full-time paid Firefighters and EMT’s and they would not want it any other way."