Chester Borough Chief Defends Department
Borough Police Chief Andre Kedrowitsch takes on accusations, rumors and inaccuracies surrounding his department.
Veteran police officer and Chester Borough Police Chief Andre Kedrowitsch kept silent when a committee was formed to discuss disbanding or merging his department with another.
Kedrowitsch kept silent when he was removed from the committee without notice.
He kept silent when a proposal of disbandment that threatened his livelihood and the livelihood of his police force.
But after Chester Borough Mayor Bob Davis commented during the public safety committee report at the April 3 on the police departments use of overtime, Kedrowitsch had reached his limit.
Davis said at the meeting of the mayor and council that the borough police were on pace to exceed $50,000 in overtime in 2012, far exceeding their $35,000 budget.
“Those remarks appear to be designed to attack the efficiency of my department and to put what we do in a negative light,” Kedrowitsch said. “And the fact is, there are many factors that go into overtime costs and our first quarter numbers were a bit high for a reason.”
According to Kedrowitsch , one of the main reasons for increased overtime cost was the fact that the department was essentially down one man.
“Back in October I requested to hire an additional officer to replace a sergeant who was retiring,” Kedrowitsch said. “That wasn’t approved until January. So while we were technically at full strength with manpower, I had an officer going through the mandatory three month training period.”
While the new hire was undergoing training, the chief said he did his best to mitigate the cost of covering vacations, sick days and trainings but that only helped to a degree. Also adding to the costs were other factors out of the chief’s control, like five days of guard duty on a prisoner being treated at Morristown Memorial Hospital, the cost of providing officers for court duty, which is mandatory and a spike in crime.
“We were very busy in the first quarter,” Kedrowitsch said. “And I have no control over crime trends.”
As part of his budgeting process, Kedrowitsch keeps a detailed spread sheet accounting for his overtime use, and compared his numbers with 12 other departments for the first quarter of 2012.
“The average was over $100,000,” Kedrowitsch said. “Most surrounding towns said we should be commended for keeping down our costs down the way we have, but instead we are being publicly criticized in an open meeting.”
With the future of his department being discussed behind closed doors, and without his participation, Kedrowitsch said statements like this are part of an agenda.
“There seems to be this spin,” Kedrowitsch said. “This negativity to make it seem as if we aren’t an efficient department. And we are. So is Chester Township. Both are well run departments. And I think it is important that the taxpayers get a clear sense of how their money is being spent.”
What Kedrowitsch would like to see is an actuary study performed by the office of the Attorney General.
“We had an actuary study done about 15 years ago,” Kedrowitsch said. “Based on our demographics and numbers it was reported that we were short two officer back then. In the last 15 years, with the growth we have had here I would be curious to see what they would recommend now.”
Kedrowitsch said the actuary study is provided for free by the Attorney General and he has contacted them about what it would take to get the process started.
For Kedrowitsch, a former member of the military, it is the issue of safety and manpower that concerns him.
“When you are part of a paramilitary organization you become like family,” Kedrowitsch said. “I’m concerned about my officers when we have only one person on patrol. Sometimes you may have to face that open door alone.”
Kedrowitsch acknowledges the tremendous pressure for consolidation of services being placed on communities by the state, and understands the process of investigating all options is a smart one. But it is the lack of communication about the process that is bogging things down.
“If there is going to be a savings and it is presented to the taxpayers and that is what they want, then so be it,” Kedrowitsch said. “But they should look at the case study of the failed merger in Watertown, N.Y. where it clearly states the reason it failed was because the lack of transparency in the process.”