The New Garden Police Department have spent the last few years attempting to become a permanent embodiment in the area and after the approval from the board of supervisors on Dec. 16, it’s now a reality.
The department has been considered part-time with officers only working 20 hours from 6 to 2 a.m. up until Sept. 11 of this year. There was an overlap of a couple of officers during the hours of 2 to 6 p.m.
“That seemed to not make a lot of sense to me to have that overlap,” said Police Chief Gerald Simpson. “Simply what we’ve done is stretch those hours around the clock now so now we’re 24 hours around the clock.”
It was decided in May to enter the department in a pilot program to determine whether it would be a viable option to have the police running at all hours of the day.
Residents had been pushing for the change for some time.
“This is something that has been discussed for a very long time, long before I started here as Chief of Police,” Simpson said. “At our town hall meeting we had back in May, there was overwhelming support. We had over 100 people in the room. When the question and answering session came up, overwhelmingly it was ‘When is the police department going 24 hours?’”
Not only did the change appease residents, but it also helped change the appearance of the department.
“To be frank, some of the buy in was trying to change the culture of thinking,” Simpson said. “Are we this part-time security agency or are we a 24-hour full speed, full service police organization? It took a little while to get everybody to understand what we are trying to accomplish and what we are trying to do. I think it bears itself out that we are a 24-hour professional police organization.”
Now that the department will be up and running around the clock, they had to bring a few more policemen on in the form of part-timers.
But due to the way things were run before, shift coverages had to be paid with overtime. With the change, all they had to do was maneuver the money from the overtime category to part-time salaries.
“Instead of paying overtime for the shift coverages, now we’re going to use a part-time salary rate, which is a lot better than overtime,” Simpson said. “We’re able to affordably give the townships and its residents a 24-hour police department at virtually the same cost. It’s just a better way of managing the resources is what it really comes down to.”
After a three-month negotiation on the bargaining agreement with the Police Association, they were able to present it to the supervisors.
“The board decided to adopt the new, current bargaining agreement and establish the operating hours as 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year like most professional police organizations, which we’re very happy about,” Simpson said.