ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury police officers who anticipated earning some easy overtime last year by patrolling outdoor events, such as Olde Suckasunny Day, were out of luck.
COVID-19 forced the cancelation of most Roxbury events of that nature, including the annual Horseshoe Lake Beach Blast, the Roxbury Community Benefit 5K, the St. Therese Carnival, the Roxbury Color Fun Run and Olde Suckasunny Day. Police are usually present, and earning overtime pay, at these events.
The township spent about $296,000 last year on police overtime, about $134,000 less than it did in 2019, according to budget figures. In 2018, the township spent about $397,000 on police overtime.
The cancelation of events wasn’t the only reason for the decline in police overtime spending, but it played a part, said Roxbury Township Police Chief Marc Palanchi.
“The overtime, time-and-a-half, you see there for police, where we cover those details for Horseshoe Lake - the walks, the events and those things - those were all canceled, so none of that happened,” said the chief this week in discussing the proposed 2021 budget with the Roxbury Township Council. “The Beach Blast. All the special events were canceled.”
He and Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd, also noted the department instituted a “COVID schedule,” which remains in effect, that disallows officers from taking time off and having a colleague fill-in and earn some overtime.
Training Via Zoom
“So that’s why that number’s down also,” Palanchi said. “Shift coverage is down. Events were down. Everything’s down. We were locked down. We are going on almost a year, basically, of being locked down.”
Palanchi said the department did spend more than usual on personal protective equipment last year, but it paid for it by taking funds from different line items and cutting back “on a lot of stuff.”
Money was also saved when it came to officer training because most in-person training sessions were canceled or converted to remote learning, the chief noted.
“Nothing’s going on,” he said. “We haven’t sent officers to travel to schools we sometime send them to … Everything is virtual. Everything is Zoom. It may stay that way, if they think it’s working. But it’s not the same … training wise, to get it through Zoom and things of that nature.”
Shepherd and Palanchi presented the council with a proposed 2021 operating budget of about $5.62 million. The department budgeted about $5.61 million in 2020 but spent about $5.26 million, according to records.
Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo praised Palanchi during the budget meeting. “I want to take the opportunity to say what an amazing job you and the department have done during the pandemic,” he said.
On another front, Palanchi told the council that, although there is a nationwide shortage of ammunition, his officers are not in jeopardy of running out.
“Ammunition and things like that are going sky-high,” said Roxbury Councilman Mark Crowley. “I hope you have it stockpiled.”
“We do,” Palanchi said. “What we typically do is buy ammo, whether we need it or not, for times like this. When wars kick in, we can’t get ammo because it’s all going to the military. Right now, guns and ammo are going to people because people are buying more guns and ammo.”
The chief said he is dealing with an unprecedented number of gun permit applications. “Everybody is buying guns, so they’re also buying ammo,” he said.
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