Fair Lawn will bring on three new police officers come January in anticipation that multiple retirement-eligible officers call it a career in the next few years.
There aren't currently any officers who have announced their intention to retire at year's end, but seven are currently eligible to do so, and 15 will be retirement-eligible by 2015, borough manager Tom Metzler said.
"We don’t know if they’re going or not, but I’m extremely concerned that we’re going to be critically low on manpower if we don’t start people in the process," he said at the Oct. 23 council work session, noting that he recommended the hires strictly to maintain not increase force levels beyond the department's 55 existing officers.
Unlike the borough's most recent police hires, who were all plucked from the state's Rice List of recently laid off officers, the three new hires will be rookies who must first complete training at the police academy.
While they'll be sworn in early next month, the new hires won't be on the road by themselves in Fair Lawn until they've completed both the academy and the borough's field training program, which Chief Erik Rose said would put them in line to actually hit the streets some time in October.
Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski said the approximately 10-month delay before the hires become full-fledged officers is all the more reason to get the process started as soon as possible.
“History in this borough shows us if we don’t do this, overtime will skyrocket," he said. "By the time an officer gets through the academy and completes his or her field training, it’s about a year before the officer starts...In the interim, period, they’re filling those slots with overtime."
Metzler said that if money weren't freed up by the retirement of an officer, the borough would initially use this year's court revenue surplus to pay for the new hires.
While the borough has declined to release the new officers' names until each has passed his physical, drug test and psychological evaluation, Rose said they are all long-time Fair Lawn residents who have strong ties to the community.
One is a Navy veteran and another is a volunteer firefighter in town, he added.