By Steve Plunkett
Town commissioners struggled with reshaping the Police Department — or at least budgeting less money for it — in their latest strategy workshop.
“We have a force and policies which would support a community two to five times the size of ours,’’ Vice Mayor Robert Evans said in a report to his colleagues after he studied the department.
Evans noted Manalapan’s force is almost the same size as Gulf Stream’s, 10 vs. 11, but because Gulf Stream has nearly twice the residents its per capita cost is lower.
He suggested eliminating one officer through attrition, then monitoring the number and severity of crimes to make sure they did not increase. The trade-offs would be in other areas, he said in his report, including number of stops, types of stops and stops at night.
“One of the policies we would be giving up is that of two men on duty each shift,” he wrote. “Although we have not had this policy most of the history of Manalapan and I don’t believe it is a safety issue, we must recognize this may be initially contrary to some residents’ preference.”
Commissioner Howard Roder suggested cutting the department’s lieutenant position, saying too often when cutting staffs, it’s the foot soldiers that go rather than their supervisors. But other commissioners said they should give Chief Clay Walker a budget number and let him decide how to meet it.
At Evans’ request, Walker devised a schedule that uses just seven officers, but said at the meeting he was not happy with it.
“I don’t think it’s good for the residents, I don’t think it’s good for my officers,” he said.
Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi, listening to the meeting while his town presented a bid to take over Manalapan’s police dispatching system, cautioned commissioners not to expect Ocean Ridge to provide backup to one-officer shifts on a routine basis. His force’s priorities are to Ocean Ridge residents and to Briny Breezes, which contracts out for police services, he said.
Commissioners took no action but directed Town Manager Linda Stumpf to develop a budget for fiscal 2012 assuming no changes to the Police Department.
Several times during the discussion of his report, Evans admitted he had put himself out on a limb.
“This is why politicians always get consultants to make these recommendations,” he