CAPE MAY – Cape May Police Chief Anthony Marino used the Cape May City Council meeting Aug. 20 to brief the governing body on the police department’s staffing issues.
The department provides services to Cape May, West Cape May and Cape May Point. While the three communities have just under 5,000 total permanent residents, Marino said that number mushrooms to almost 60,000 in the peak summer months.
He noted that efforts to extend the economic shoulder season, along with popular events throughout the off-season, mean that the city is seldom at the lower level of its permanent population.
A chart included with the presentation showed the department has 21 full-time officers, with additional help from Class I and II officers.
Hiring, training, and retaining police officers presents a constant struggle, but Marino presented council with recommendations that would help the process.
The hiring process involves Civil Service lists that are updated on a two-year cycle with further delay caused by the time it takes to certify a test. Extensive background checks, oral interviews, and a conditional hiring decision represent the beginning of the process of putting an officer on the street.
A conditional hiring decision precedes medical and psychological examinations, drug screening and physical fitness assessments. An applicant who reaches that stage is set for entrance to the biannual police academy training class, a 20-week experience.
A newly graduated officer is then introduced to the department’s Field Training Program, which can last 12 to 20 weeks. The officer, still in a probationary status, is continuously evaluated for retention for one year after academy graduation.
According to Marino, there is an average period of 41 weeks to produce a “self-sufficient officer.”
The chief’s presentation was prompted by his remarks at an earlier council meeting when he said he was four officers down in his staffing, causing coverage problems and extensive overtime use. The understaffing, as he described it, is especially worrisome when officers respond to dangerous situations.
With staffing at its present level, the four squads that patrol Cape Island communities are staffed at three officers per squad instead of the four per squad, which should represent a minimum manpower level, Marino said.
He used the example of dangerous domestic dispute situations, where protocols call for two officers to respond. He said the department can’t respond appropriately to two domestic dispute calls at the same time. This was one example of risk to officers caused by understaffing.
Marino’s recommended solutions would cost money. The situation is similar to recent discussions on fire department staffing, with key public safety departments saying they need additional staffing over the upcoming budget cycles.
Marino asked for the ability to front fill positions, starting the process and training of officers while officers who have announced retirement are still working.
He also asked for a phased move from three to four and eventually five officers per patrol squad. “This gives the department a full staffing of five when all officers are in and a minimum staffing of four,” he said, speaking of his patrol squads.
Marino also asked for an increase from two to three positions in the Detective Bureau.
He called for having “all functionality under one roof,” referring to the current arrangement where the department is split between its aging facility attached to City Hall and an annex building in West Cape May.
As a symbolic display of the deteriorating police headquarters facility, Marino showed video of the rain flowing down the inside of the windows in his office.
To contact Vince Conti, email email@example.com
Stone Harbor – To the spouter from stone harbor thanking shop owners for speaking up, on here does not count ,in front of council does. The only shop owner seen at council was Mr Lengle, no one else.To that…