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Ewing gets less bang for bucks with cops

Contract, practices result in lost work hours

Saturday, November 17, 2007

EWING -- The Ewing Police Department loses thousands of work hours each year -- the
equivalent of more than three full-time officers -- as a result of scheduling, contractual perks and
township giveaways, a state report revealed yesterday.

A monthlong assessment into police operations, conducted by the state Department of

Community Affairs, concludes the department has enough personnel to adequately meet the
township's public safety needs. But in analyzing the number of hours police log, the state found
that the department loses more than 7,000 hours it could be getting from its employees.

"They're telling us the department is not efficient based on that loss of productivity," said Dave
Thompson, township business administrator. "Some of the lost hours are the result of the contract
that has been negotiated over the years and some are the result of things that aren't in the
contract but have been allowed by the township in past practices."

The bulk of the lost hours are the result of schedules which have patrol officers working a 35-day
ro tating schedule of nine-hour shifts.

"(The contract) sets the maxi mum number of hours per year at 2,080, however the current work
schedule only calls for 1,965 hours per year," the report says. The difference amounts to a net
loss of 5,635 in work hours each year for 49 patrol officers.

"That's certainly a very big concern for us," said Mayor Jack Ball. "It's one of the issues we will be
discussing with the chief."

In analyzing the township's po licing needs, the state recommends the township operate with 83
sworn officers.

According to Chief Robert Coul ton, that number will be met when the township replaces four
officers who retired this year. The report calls for reducing the number of lieutenants in the
department from eight to four and adding more manpower to the patrol unit.

Coulton said he will not be promoting new lieutenants to replace those that retire, a directive from
the administration. New hires will be added to the patrol unit, he said.

The report, done at the request of the previous township administration, examined overall
staffing, shifts, administration, facilities and equipment of the police department.

"Overall, there are no surprises contained within the report," Coul ton said. "The issues contained
in this report are common to police departments throughout this state, and I am hopeful that the
police administration, police unions, and township administration can work collectively to address

Coulton pointed out that the report does not call into question the quality of work the department

"The quality of service and protection we provide is good," Coul ton said. "The report talks mainly
about contractual issues, which is between the unions and the township. I have no control over
The study highlights several contractual terms afforded to the department's two unions.

Among them is a provision that allows members 12 paid sick days each year. Those sick days, if
unused, can be saved from year to year. But after exhausting all saved sick time, officers are
entitled to receive full payment for up to 251 additional sick days, a provision that gives officers
"little incentive to save days to guard against major illness," the report states.

Further, in addition to customary time off granted to conduct PBA business, attend state meet
ings and conventions, each union receives 60 "business days" off, re sulting in the loss of 120
nine-hour days, the report notes.

Other contractual terms include meal allowances for officers working overtime and a generous
off- duty work program that allows Ewing police to by paid privately for outside security jobs while
in uniform.

"The contract is simply too generous," said Thompson. "But its a contract that was negotiated
over the years and it's something we have to live with until we can re turn to the bargaining table.
What I can't live with, and I won't live with, is the things that aren't in the contract but the town has
allowed as past practices."

These freebies include "Specialty Day," which allows a day off for officers qualified to perform
duties such as Breathalyzer operator, K-9 officer, emergency response team and other specialty
assignments. The loss of police productivity for 41 officers was 371 hours in 2006, the report

In addition, the report notes that while the contract limits to 50 hours the number of comp-time
hours employees can carry into the next year, officers are allowed to sell back comp time in 40-
hour blocks for overtime pay.

"Officers should be required to either take the (overtime) pay when earned or take time off when it
will not generate overtime pay," the report concludes. The state also recommends the township
reconsider its practice of affording officers comp time for "on-call" status.

The report also suggests saving money by hiring retired police "civilians" to perform jobs that
don't involve responding to emergencies or making arrests, such as supervi sors for the
communications, records and evidence departments.