The retirement of Hopewell Township Police Department’s Chief Lance Maloney was approved at this week’s Hopewell Township Committee meeting and the Committee discussed and approved measures for next steps in the PD. In addition to police matters, the Committee approved several resolutions, including approval of movies in the park, and recognized planning board findings that the BMS campus is an “area in need of redevelopment.”
The Committee read and approved a resolution accepting the retirement of Lance Maloney, Hopewell Township’s Chief of Police. Maloney began his career 26 years ago as a patrolman riding his bike around Hopewell Borough, was promoted to sergeant in 2003, to lieutenant in 2006, and to chief in 2014 as the Department’s fifth full-time chief of police. He has served as president of the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association, has been a member of the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Steering Committee, and a member of the Municipal Alliance. Maloney also participated in the development of the Mercer County Violence Response Team (DVVRT), supported and promoted Womanspace programs, and supported the development of the Mercer County Rapid Response Partnership. Maloney supported the Hopewell Valley Youth Advisory Board and supports initiatives within Mercer County to combat the opioid overdose crisis. Maloney also led the HT PD in obtaining accreditation in 2017 and reaccreditation in 2020.
Maloney’s retirement comes after the recent suspension of several Hopewell Township police officers and employees (click here for story) in a racially-related issue, as well as recent heightened public support for Michael Sherman, a police officer who brought legal action against the Township Police Department several years ago. Sherman, who is Black, alleges being the subject of ongoing racist jokes and comments while in the employment of the Township Police Department.
Committee member Julie Blake introduced the resolution asking members of the public to reconcile some potential contradictions. “I’m here to honor Lance retiring from a job of 26 years, and this is a time when people are asking hard questions of police and policing,” said Blake. “I think we can ask these questions while also honoring someone so honorable. I ask you all to silently wish him the easiest of retirements.”
“[Maloney] has risen his way to this position doing his very best. This is someone who would do anything for the residents,” continued Blake. “Lance Maloney has shown up when people are their very worst — and I want to thank him for being there for the residents of Hopewell Township for his entire policing career.”
“You’ve been the only chief since I’ve been on the Committee and I want to thank you for all those years in partnership,” Committee member Kevin Kuchinski said to Maloney. “I want to thank you for driving what is best for Hopewell Township. And for coming to the Black Lives Matter march and standing in solidarity… I want to thank you for this and wish you all the best moving forward.”
Mayor Kristin McLaughlin commended Maloney for his professional and personal calm, and his work for the Township, “He is as good a man as we possibly could have had in that job. He will be celebrated and missed deeply.”
Also offering recognition: Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger and Committee member Courtney Peters-Manning, Board attorney Steve Goodell, Hopewell Borough Council member Ryan Kennedy, West Windsor Police Chief Robert Garofalo, and former Committee member Todd Brandt all thanked Maloney for his service.
In gratitude for the kind words, which Maloney said was “unexpected and greatly appreciated,” Maloney reflected on his long career with the HT PD and the community including work with the Special Olympics, Womanspace, and Recovery Addicts of America, among others, as well as receiving PD accreditation in 2017 and accreditation in 2020.
Maloney concluded by thanking current and past Committee members, fellow municipal employees, and residents of Hopewell Township, “for allowing me to serve you over the past 26 tyears. It’s a great community of great people and it’s been an honor to work here.”
Maloney will retire on August 1, 2020 and his sudden departure necessitated the Committee to take further action to fill the lead HT PD position. To that end, the Committee reviewed and considered an ordinance temporarily establishing the position of police director, in lieu of a new chief.
“[Procedurally], there are incredibly stringent laws… which includes that there must be a chief when a person retires, so by August 1, we must have a chief in place or give ourselves a ‘pause button’ and look for a permanent director or find a new chief. Right now we’re asking for some time to go through that process,” said Blake.
Goodell explained that the director position is meant to be temporary. “The default is a chief in the Department,” said Goodell. “But, if there is a vacancy, you have an option to hire a director who can stay in office for as long as appropriate until there is a new chief in place.”
The role of director is described as being much more limited than a chief, and will serve as a mentor for the next chief as well as perform task analysis for changing duties, adding senior or junior officers, and redefining roles, explained Blake, “but most importantly to find community input…. we have to do research first and work with the Police Department to make changes… this is a parallel track,” she said.
The second reading and public hearing on this issue will be (14 days from first reading) at the next Committee meeting on Monday August 3.
The Committee will host a series of meetings with police officers and community members, beginning in September. The Committee also proposed the establishment of a citizens advisory group.
“Not just for the policing but other aspects of Hopewell Township government,” said Ruger, who spoke about potential inequitable economic requirements. The group will consist of five to nine members who would look at Township rules, regulations, and practices and quarterly give the Committee advice on their findings.
“This is going to be a real opportunity,” said McLaughlin. “This group is well-suited to help us fine tune the process as we move along and i’m excited to get it started.”
The Township is in the process of filling the position of Township health officer — temporarily being filled by Montgomery Township Health Department, which also serves Hopewell and Pennington Boroughs. Blake, Committee liaison to the Township Board of Health, said she “looks forward to announcing a hire soon.”
As previously reported by MercerMe, the Mercer County Freeholders voted last week to purchase the Hopewell Valley Golf and Country Club, which has been vacant since fall 2019. “They will do maintenance work during the closing portion and it will continue to operate as a golf course, although public one,” said Kuchinski.
The Committee also approved movies in the park, spoke about the importance of mask wearing and participating in the census, and announced that it was just notified that the Township is a Tree City USA for 2019.
In May, the Hopewell Township Planning Board deemed the Bristol-Myers Squibb site, located at 311 Pennington-Rocky Hill Road, an “area in need of redevelopment.” (MercerMe story here) At the Committee meeting, the Committee acknowledged the findings of the planning board’s assessment and clarified the process.
“This is the first step,” explained Township engineer, Mark Kataryniak. “The next step is evaluate and develop a redevelopment plan… Plans are fluid at this point and designation is the first step in the process in developing a redevelopment strategy and plan on the campus… When a redevelopment plan is crafted, it will contain detailed zoning controls (how the campus is laid out).” Kataryniak explained that a general development plan was never fully realized on the property and the goal is to develop plans for both how the campus can be developed and how it can be controlled.
Kuchinski spoke about this being an opportunity to straighten requirements including stream corridor protections, “As we’ve seen in the past, this is an opportunity to put additional restrictions and projections for the broader community.
The next Hopewell Township Committee meeting will be held on Monday August 3 at 5pm.
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