The Hightstown Borough Council passed the ordinance to replace the police chief position with a civilian police director by a 3-2 vote Monday night.
Mayor Steven Kirson and township officials have said replacing the chief position with a police director would save the township around $100,000, since the current police chief costs the borough $175,000 with benefits.
Mixed emotions on the vote filled the room as community members expressed whether or not the council should approve the vote. Most agreed a police director should replace the police chief position, however some called for different language of the ordinance.
Talk to create the police director position began in June after Police Chief James Eufemia announced his retirement, effective Sept. 1.
Critics have said a civilian police director running the department would take an officer off the street and lower department morale.
First Vice President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police Raymond Hayducka said Friday that the police director position would not save money and would be limited to administrative duties. There were certain tasks, such as viewing internal affairs reports and making arrests, a police director would not be allowed, by law, to do, Hayduck said Friday.
"We believe the agency would be best run by a sworn law enforcement officer," Hayducka said.
Before Monday's vote, Vanderbeck disagreed with critiques and welcomed the new position.
“To go with a police chief is basically a one way street we’re going in. there’s no U-turns. I think with a police director at least at some point you can pull over to the side and change your mind. You can find a U-turn in the road,” Vanderbeck said.
Councilwoman Skye Gilmartin and Lynne Woods voted against the ordinance, while Council President Lawrence Quattrone and council members J. Michael Vanderbeck and Isabel McGinty voted to approve it. Six members sit on the council, however Councilwoman Selena Bibens was not present and declined in advance to vote.