Plan to disband police opposed

Hamburg councilman walks out of meeting to protest rumors

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HAMBURG — Emotions ran high as council member Daniel Barr walked out at the start of Wednesday evening’s Mayor and Council meeting in a show of opposition to any notion the council may have of disbanding the borough’s police department.

Before a packed house, including dozens of residents and several representatives from various law enforcement groups in the state, one speaker after another came forward to protest rumored plans the council may have to dissolve the department and relegate law enforcement duties to Hardyston Township in a shared services agreement; a move that Hamburg resident John Conklin called potentially ‘catastrophic’.

Responding to another resident’s question about how such an agreement might affect the safety of borough residents, Mayor Paul Marino also took the opportunity to distance himself from the controversial idea.

“I just want to reiterate one thing,” Marino said, referring to a potential agreement. “There is no proposal. There was very preliminary discussion. There’s a risk factor here and we don’t know what the end game is. I’m not willing to take a chance on any level while I’m sitting here. [Councilman Barr] walked out of here; said he’s not going to be a part of it. I’m not going to be a part of it.”

At the heart of any such discussion is how much money outsourcing law enforcement could potentially save the borough. Citing a study conducted by Rutgers University, though, Nevin Mattessich, a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 57, asserted that shared services agreements may actually cost taxpayers more.

“By entering into a shared services agreement,” Mattessich said, “You lose much needed revenue from motor vehicle summonses.”

Mattessich also alluded to the borough’s controversial hiring of civilian police director Wayne Yahm as a possible cause behind recent talk of shared services agreements with other municipalities.

“The failed attempt of a civilian police director in Hamburg should not result in the disbanding of a police department,” Mattessich said.

Former Hamburg police officer Rob Vander Ploeg also worried that the loss of the department would encourage criminal activity in the vacuum left by a diminished police presence in the borough.

“Those who disregard law and order know where our resources are spread thin,” Vander Ploeg said.

But perhaps the most emotional appeal for maintaining the borough’s police force came toward the end of the meeting from Hamburg resident, Brian Dolan. Hamburg police officers came to Dolan’s aid after he suffered a seizure.

“They saved my life,” Dolan said simply.

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