Brick police experienced one of their busiest years ever in 2022, capped by one of its most expensive investigations in some time.
Newly-minted Chief David Forrester on Tuesday presented his first proposed budget as the leader of the department. A practice introduced under former mayor John Ducey, each year, Brick’s departmental leaders provide public presentations of their budgets and allow for questions from both elected officials and residents at township council meeting. In Forrester’s presentation, amongst the more routine items were descriptions of some not-so-routine calls which exemplified how police resources can quickly add up in emergency situations.
Top among those extraordinary expenses was the investigation into a high-profile incident on Arrowhead Park Drive in December that resulted in the removal of more than 180 dogs from a small, ranch-style home tucked into the residential neighborhood. The rancid conditions officers found were so severe that a HAZMAT team had to be called to assist, and a great deal of manpower was extended to navigate the scene, remove the animals from the property and ultimately secure the premises, which was later deemed uninhabitable. From that point on, detectives had to establish the case against the two residents of the home, which is pending in Superior Court.
The total cost of the investigation was $27,934 in overtime.
“That was a large scale event,” said Forrester. “The site was considered a crime scene, we had to excavate the backyard and we had to call in additional resources. It was a very costly case – a lot of manpower was needed.”
Township Attorney Kevin Starkey said responsibility for investigating animal cruelty calls, as well as ensuring the general public safety in the area, falls to the local department. Ultimately, the presence of a juvenile at the home resulted in additional charges of child endangerment, which are also still pending.
“We made a request to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and part of what we’re seeking at sentencing is reimbursement of those funds pending a conviction,” Starkey said.
The department also experienced about $40,000 in overtime due to Covid-19 absences, and about $14,000 spent on another resource-intensive case that involved an intoxicated person armed with a gun, the chief said.
Overall, Forrester said, calls for service last year were up compared to 2021, despite the pandemic winding down. Brick police received a total of 94,807 calls for service in 2022, including 10,998 emergency medical calls and 1,610 fire calls. In 2021, the department handled about 86,000 total calls for service.
Forrester said it is his intention to maintain the roster of sworn officers at 145, though the specific number of officers on the payroll at a given time depends on retirements and new hires. At the moment, there are 141 sworn officers in the department, with the intention of hiring an additional four to replace those who have left.
Forrester plans on hiring four new dispatchers – a challenge that many local towns have experienced.
“It’s a tough, competitive field,” said Forrester, nothing that municipalities often lure experienced dispatchers (officially titled “public safety telecommunicators”) from neighboring departments by raising salaries. “Dispatchers are tough to keep, so we’re always looking to add more just to replace people.”
Police salaries in Brick are expected to be $21,458,770 in 2023, and the department has allocated $1,250,000 to overtime coverage.
The township’s annual operating budget will be presented by Mayor Lisa Crate this spring and is subject to an introductory vote by the township council, a public hearing and a final vote to adopt the annual spending plan.