Small NJ Town Fires Entire Police Department

By Brian Thompson
|  Saturday, May 8, 2010  |  Updated 9:28 AM EDT
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Small NJ Town Fires Entire Police Department

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Petition circulated to stop sex offender facility in Montville.

Hopefully one Central Jersey town doesn't turn into the Wild Wild West after firing all of its lawmen.

The entire five-man police department in the Jersey Shore Borough of Interlaken, N.J. is getting its walking papers early next month, after voters rejected a new headquarters for the department a few weeks back.

"I'm disappointed," said Mayor Robert Wolf. "I grew up in this town, I know what it's like to know our officers, to wave to them."

Longtime resident Berish Wetstein, 20, will also miss those hometown cops, explaining that they knew how to deal with young people.

"Other cops are just gonna be laying down the law, giving us tickets," Wetstein worried.

The cops were put on the chopping block after a $650,000 bond issue was presented to voters as an "either/or" proposition:

Either pass the bond, or see the police department disbanded if they weren't going to fund a replacement for the trailer the police have operated from since a fire destroyed their offices a few years back.

Even though the bond issue lost by just 30 votes, the Mayor said the Borough had no choice but to fire its police and look to a neighboring town to keep Interlaken residents safe.

Interlaken officials are negotiating with three neighboring towns to outsource law-enforcement services.

"I think a lot of our people associated our police with a dollar sign but didn't associate a value of having them," said Mayor Wolf in explaining why so many of his residents were willing to jettison the police department. "They're not going to know what they had until it's gone."

But one resident, Mary Beth Joyce, said her vote went beyond a tax savings and was more an expression of "no confidence" in Borough Hall.

She won't miss her local department.

"We should look at several options," Joyce said. "We have neighboring towns that are interested in merging with us."

While Interlaken, population about 900, is taking the most drastic action to save tax dollars, it is not alone in squeezing savings out of its police department.

In Rochelle Park this week, police agreed to a 1 1/2 pay cut, and a cap on overtime in order to save the jobs of two of their officers there.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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