Hopewell Township Committee held its monthly meeting on Monday, May 3, to discuss local policing, COVID-19, and adopt Older Americans Month.
Health officer, Dawn Marling, updated the Committee regarding COVID-19. “It feels really good to say we had single-digit cases last week. I haven’t seen that since October,” Marling said.
Marling explained that the County had seen a total of 842 cases overall, with 59 of those cases in April.
“I have not had any new reports of hospitalizations or deaths which I’m very grateful for… We’ve made great progress with vaccinations,” Marling said.
In New Jersey, 55% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, and 42% have been completely vaccinated. In Hopewell alone, 75% of adults have been fully vaccinated according to Marling.
“The goal [is] for herd immunity. We [also] have a large portion that has also received their first dose, we’re going to be getting there within 28 days,” Marling said.
As a result of the decline in cases and the increase in number of people who have already been vaccinated within the Township, the Committee voted that Marling will only need to come back once a month for COVID updates.
As public comment opened, one major issue addressed was the Township’s recent expulsion and suspension of two officers in the Hopewell Township Police Department (HTPD).
Phil Keyes, a resident in Hopewell County, expressed his disagreement. “I don’t know why you want to do this to your own police force,” Keyes said. “It makes the job of a police officer tougher and opens the Township to financial burdens that you cannot calculate [at] first.”
The Committee was unable to answer the questions brought up during public comment due to the situation being an internal personnel matter, according to Hopewell Township attorney, Steve Goodell.
Goodell explained, during public comment, the process of investigating officers, “[An investigation] starts with a complaint, it gets investigated by an internal affairs officer who was specially trained to do just that. Then it goes to the officer in charge. In certain circumstances, the case then is referred to an independent hearing officer who issues a decision. Then it has to be reversed or modified by the appropriate authority. Which in Hopewell Township, is the township committee.”
The Committee then went into a work session regarding the HTPD evaluations from outside sources over the last year. The work session was led by Police Director Robert Karmazin.
“We want to take a look and gather insights and observations across the force at all levels. Taking a look at gaps and seams. And it’s in concert with what we’ve been doing in terms of what our mission statement is,” Karmazin explained to the Committee.
The session included looking at different areas that HTPD could improve. Karmazin suggested that including civilian jobs in the police force would help lessen the casework for the detectives. This includes positions like the civilian firearms administrator, which Karmazin explained is needed due to a 308% increase in firearm investigations since 2018.
Committee member Kristin McLaughlin explained that, due to the pandemic, statistics in gun ownership has risen across the Country. “That request for firearm permits skyrocketed during the pandemic, and I know that was an enormous burden on our officers and I think nationwide that was what was seen,” McLaughlin said.
As well, Karmazin suggested the possibility of including the community in the recruitment of officers — a process that takes up to a year for a recruit to go through.
At the end of the session, Blake continued to affirm the policing in Hopewell Township. “I want to let people know that we had always heard how great the Hopewell Township Police were, the standards that they held. What has happened to them last year with the outside consultant and the hiring of Bob Karmazin, as well as confirmation we have had from the outside, they are as good as we have heard,” Blake said.
The Hopewell Committee adopted May as Older Americans month to support older Americans within the Hopewell Township community.
“Hopewell Township can foster communities of strength by: creating opportunities to share stories and learn from each other; engaging older adults through education, recreation, and service; and encouraging people of all ages to celebrate connections and resilience,” the proclamation reads.
A couple of Important Dates to keep in mind this May;
May 20th: Public Marijuana Meeting
Freon Collection: May 27th
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