The Millburn Police Department will soon get to fill the four police officer openings it has had for a while, according to police officials.
The process will take a few months, said Chief Greg Weber, and just how long until those officers are patrolling the streets will depend on whether those hired already have had police academy training.
The authorization to hire comes during a time when police continue to investigate a crime wave involving stolen and burglarized vehicles.
The department sometimes hires officers laid off from other police departments, who don't need academy training, such as the two officers from West Orange were sworn in at Town Hall in October.
The size of the police force – currently 50 police officers – has been the subject of discussion lately because of the vehicle burglary and theft spree that has plagued the township for more than a year, despite some arrests.
Detectives are working with other police departments because Millburn is just one of many townships hard hit by burglars and car thieves.
At the Millburn Township Committee’s meeting last week, committee members and the township administrator told the public that detectives were close to making more arrests and have been working with a task force on the issue.
Neither the chief nor Eakley would confirm or deny the existence of such a task force or Millburn's participation in it and won't release details about ongoing investigations out of concern for the safety of the officers or about jeopardizing the cases.
Earlier this week an arrest was made on one of the many Millburn cases, and the suspect had a long history of burglary charges.
Since last week, there has been much discussion on Patch about the size of the police force, and whether that was hindering the department and about the issue of consolidating services such as emergency dispatch. Chief Weber answered those questions along with Eakley this week.
Weber said the department, like others, has "learned to do more with less during these troubled economic times." The impact of four fewer officers has resulted in non-criminal justice responsibilities, such has miscellaneous paperwork and community outreach, being put on the back burner, he said.
“The public can be assured that our patrol and investigative functions have in no way been hampered,” he said.
While Millburn Township is looking into consolidation of services for communications/dispatch, currently all Central Communications are still done in house, Eakley said.
“There is still a public safety answering point in the Law Enforcement Building that answers all of the 911 calls for the Township of Millburn,” he said.
Either civilian communications personnel or sworn police officers staff dispatch, depending on the time of the day, he said.
Dispatch personnel monitor a myriad of radio frequencies, computer systems, and video surveillance equipment, as well, he said. “They are a critical cog in the entire criminal justice system and provide for the safety of the entire community. The importance of the communication function cannot be minimized.”
The township is currently reviewing possibilities for changes in the dispatch operation. Among those are:
- Consolidating or possibly moving the operation to a new central communications center in New Providence that would be shared by Summit, New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Millburn.
- Consolidating those services with the Livingston Police Department.
- Renovating the Millburn Police Department’s existing operation and keeping it in Millburn.
“At this juncture, the township is reviewing all options, and the Police Department is not ready to comment on what would be the best overall service, in terms of cost and public safety to the Township,” Eakley said, adding that once they have more information, they will recommend an option to the Business Administrator and Township Committee.”
Response times have not changed over the last few years, Eakley said, but a lot of variables determine how fast an officer can respond, including the location of the patrol car and the volume of calls. Eakley did not have firm numbers available, but estimated that under normal conditions, an officer arrives within three to five minutes of being dispatched.
Police chiefs dream of having unlimited resources and manpower, but that it not reality, Eakley said on behalf of Weber.
"Yes, it would be nice to have more police officers, but we have one of the best police departments in the tri-county area," he said. "...Our officers are highly motivated, are dedicated and are serving the public in an outstanding manner."