Four new patrolman have been hired to serve with the Brick Township Police Department, part of an expansion of the agency that will continue in the coming years.
Two of the officers will begin work immediately and two more will start after they graduate from the county police academy. Chief James Riccio said the new hires will increase the size of the department from 136 sworn officers to 140.
Mayor John Ducey said he expected to expand the department earlier this year, citing a slew of programs the department is now managing, including five officers assigned to the school system and a number of community policing and outreach programs aimed at fighting the opioid addiction epidemic and improving conditions at the troubled Maple Leaf Park condominium neighborhood.
Since being appointed chief in 2015, Riccio has reworked shift schedules, started a bicycle patrol unit and led the department’s implementation of the Blue HART program, under which those suffering from addiction can come to police headquarters without the fear of being arrested and immediately receive treatment.
“Knowing the success of that program alone, and expanding the Neighborhood Watch program, getting into Maple Leaf and the beginning of turning that around, I know that we’re making the right choices up here,” said Councilwoman Lisa Crate, voicing her support for the expansion.
The township has also added two new patrol districts: one covering Maple Leaf Park and adjacent streets, and the barrier island, where year-round residents have increased since Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012 and was previously served by an officer who also had the responsibility of serving a portion of the mainland simultaneously.
The new patrolman will not be the last to be added, Ducey said.
“We’re going to hire a number of officers over the next couple of years,” he said. “We had to look to see how many we could hire this year, and the number was four.”
The mayor said officers will be added as the department “evolves.”
Though not completely attributed to the new hires – collective bargaining agreements call for incremental salary increases year-to-year – the department’s proposed salary budget for 2018 is $17,894,324, up 5.2 percent from 2017.
The four officers who were hired this week have already had their salaries worked into the budget, Riccio said.