A $40,950 grant awarded by the state last week will pay for a study to explore the feasibility of merging police departments in Fair Haven, Rumson and Little Silver, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The analysis will be conducted by Patriot Consulting of Monmouth Beach and is expected to take nine months to a year to complete, according to Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl.

Shrewsbury and Oceanport could be added to the combined peninsula force if the idea moves forward, Ekdahl told the Press.

“We’ll examine our ability to increase efficiencies, where we’ll find cost savings, where we’ll improve policing with a merging of resources and where we’ll be able to pool our police budgets,” [Little Silver Council President Declan] O’Scanlon said. “No one wants to dive in without having the facts. We’ll take a good, hard look.”

The biggest issue the study is expected to consider is police response times. Local officials are also concerned that any combination not result in layoffs.

Officials agreed that if the departments are merged and reduced staffing is recommended, the ranks would be trimmed by attrition rather than by layoffs. The combined three police forces total about 48 people, including the three police chiefs, he said.

“If the magic number is 28 (people), the first 20 retirees don’t get replaced,” Ekdahl said. “Everyone currently employed will stay employed.”

The Press’ Larry Higgs reports that the proposed Two Rivers Police Department grew out of talks at the Two River Council of Mayors and “is patterned after consolidation of the Wharton and Mine Hill police departments in Morris County, and the study would examine that consolidation.”

A statement on Mine Hill’s website says the township has entered into an interlocal services agreement with the Borough of Wharton for police services.

But a full merger of departments would be groundbreaking. According to a statement on Patriot’s website, “No municipality in the history of the State of New Jersey has ever merged or consolidated their police department with that of another community.”

From the Press:

Belmar has proposed merging with seven other area towns, including Wall, to form a South Monmouth Regional Police Department. That proposal still is under discussion.

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