PEAPACK AND GLADSTONE NJ - The Peapack-Gladtone Police Committee has settled two weeks of turmoil in the twin borough. The Committee has resolved to put the Lynch Report "in abeyance", and has made some changes to the staffing of the department and to the scheduling of the officers, according to an announcement made at tonight's borough council meeting.
The terms of the police committee's agreement must be approved by the P.B.A. and the entire borough council before they become binding.
Police Chief Gregory Skinner made a public statement on behalf of the Police Committee:
"I am pleased to report that the Police Committee met twice this past week and have come to an agreement on the staffing of the Department. The Committee, composed of myself, Chairman Mark Corigliano, Councilman Bill Simpson and advisor Councilman Anthony Suriano worked together to address concerns regarding the Department’s utilization of manpower. This statement is being made on behalf of the entire Committee.
Because the agreement requires acceptance by the PBA and subsequent acceptance by the full Council, the details of the arrangement cannot be disclosed at this time. However, I can say that the agreement provides for i) greater supervisory coverage; ii) greater police officer presence during the hours of 6:30AM to 8:00PM and 1:00AM to 2:00AM each weekday and iii) potential reduction in overtime costs. These objectives are being met at no additional cost.
The Police Committee works well together and we aspire to continue to work cooperatively in the best interests of the Borough, its residents and the Police Department and its personnel."
Two Weeks of Angst
The committee's proposed settlement comes in the wake of nearly two weeks of angst in this bedroom community of just over 2,450 people. There were heated - and on one occasion profane - exchanges on a local social media site, some of which were removed by the site's mediator. There was a Jib-Jab video spoofing the mayor and some members of the borough council to the tune of Devo's "Whip It", which appeared on social media, then disappeared after vocal objections from a member of the borough council.
There was another letter from Farm Cottage Road resident and former councilman John Sweeney to the editor of the local newspaper, and a resulting cover article in that same paper. The article pitted some residents against the mayor and borough council.
And there was the return of the "We support our police" lawn signs, most heavily concentrated along Pottersville Road near the residence of Mayor William Muller.
The surge of political activity was the result of a police staffing report obtained by the borough council to address public safety and staffing issues. The report analyzed the staffing issues over about seven pages, then in the final three paragraphs dropped the Twin Borough version of the atomic bomb: Consider eliminating the police department and contracting with Bedminster Township.
A quarter century ago, a previous mayor and borough council proposed a police department merger with Bernardsville. The public did not take well to the proposal. A citizens group was formed to oppose the merger. There were confrontations between a borough councilman and a leader of the citizens group that resulted in the conviction of that councilman for harassment. Eventually, the proposal was the subject of a non-binding referendum. The proposal failed by a 4-1 margin.
The 2016 reaction was reminiscent of the 1991 reaction.
During the two weeks of frenetic political activity, the Police Committee met on two occasions, and hammered out the agreement on staffing. The details of the agreement are not yet public. P.B.A. Local 139, which represents the officers in the Peapack-Gladstone Police Department must first approve the agreement reached in the Police Committee. The full Borough Council must also approve the agreement before it can take effect.