Chief John Paton introduced a new community policing scheme to the township committee Thursday during their regular meeting.
Under the new initiative, olice officers will be assigned a specific neighborhood to patrol regularly. The officer will be responsible for responding to the particular concerns of each neighborhood.
"The concept of community-oriented policing is to return to the days of the beat cop, where the officer knew everybody on his beat and everybody knew him," Paton said. "That builds rapport between the citizens and the officers and allows us to focus on the concerns of those neighborhoods."
Where possible, beaurocratic "red tape" has been minimized to empower officers to respond directly to the neighborhood's issues, Paton said.
Paton said most concerns will pertain to "quality of life" issues, such as burned-out street lights or potholes. However, the scheme will also help the town respond to large problems that affect entire neighborhoods, such as the massive power outages the town experienced during in August 2011 and the in October 2011.
"This doesn't replaec anything in the emergency sense," Paton said. "What it means is, on the time that an officer is working his particular shift, he will be spending some portion of his workday in his neighborhood."
Besides the 11 officers, a Traffic Safety Officer will also be assigned to deal with "issues across the board," Paton said.
Township Mayor Nicole Hagner said the initiative, which will officially begin over the summer, "will be a wonderful asset for the community. Certainly last year was a very difficult time with natural disasters, ... and I think this will give another opportunity for residents in an area to get familiar with a police officer."
The scheme, Hagner said, will help "bridge the gap" between the residents and local government.
"The reverse is that the officer gets to know where the special needs people are in his community," Paton said in response.
Over the next few weeks, residents can expect to see police officers park their cars and introduce themselves throughout the neighborhood. Paton hopes members of the community will feel free to approach the officers and increase interaction with police through their neighborhood officer.
The township has been divided into 11 different "manageable" sections, Paton said. "Over time hopefully [each officer] will get to know everybody, and everybody will get to know him."
Each officer will have their assigned district added to their business cards, and their cards will include their direct telephone number at the police department so residents do not have to contact the Morris County dispatch center to reach their assigned officer.