To the Editor:
In a May 8 letter to the editor, Mike Voll, of Rio Grande, demanded that our police officers provide, free of charge, on-call traffic control for Middle Township's churches and organizations.
He implied that the practice of billing non-governmental entities for traffic control at large gatherings and special events (a policy in place for many years) is unfair and that the police department’s failure to do so shows a lack of concern for public safety on the part of our hardworking and dedicated officers.
Middle Township Police Department, backed by the unwavering support of our governing body, is committed to protecting the public safety of our residents. This is our mission and our number-one priority, 24 hours a day, every day.
When the integrity of the department and our commitment to this mission are unfairly attacked and mischaracterized, we are compelled to publicly reply and set the record straight.
Middle Township is 72-square miles with 25 churches and hundreds of businesses and organizations. We wish we could guarantee an officer at all of these locations to help attendees get onto busy roadways when their events end. But such a commitment would require hiring several more officers, at great cost to every taxpayer.
We usually have six police officers on the street responding to various calls for service. Emergencies must take priority.
What we do for one, we would need to do for all. The cost of such a commitment in time and manpower would be significant and draw our limited resources away from their primary mission.
At times, The Lighthouse Church, like other organizations, has determined that they need to guarantee that an officer will be posted at their location for a certain time period.
There is a mechanism in place to request such traffic control for a private entity and the township requires that those costs be borne by the specific user of the traffic control service, not the taxpayers.
The Lighthouse Church pays for the extra officer when they feel there is a need and has been doing this since 2012. For Voll to imply otherwise is simply untrue.
Voll also insinuated that one reason traffic control is not provided is because our officers are not willing to leave their patrol vehicles to direct traffic. This is utterly false and an unwarranted attack on the professionalism and integrity of the brave men and women of our police department.
We hope this letter clarifies the township’s position and practices on the issue of traffic control. We stand by this policy and fully support the work of our officers in the field.
ED. NOTE: Leusner is chief of Middle Township Police Department and Donohue is mayor of Middle Township and director of Public Safety.