Helmetta police force back to 24/7 coverage

No longer paying Jamesburg for daily third-shift patrols


Helmetta’s expanded police department is now on its own. The town recently ended an interlocal agreement that had Jamesburg providing third-shift police coverage to Helmetta, the result of a yearlong effort to determine how to address Helmetta’s police department deficiencies. After a series of changes that included adding a full-time Helmetta officer, borough officials said things are looking up for the small police force.

“It’s been moving in a positive direction,” Helmetta Mayor Nancy Martin said.

An efficiency study performed last year by the Roberts Group Ltd., of Watchung, concluded that the department was deficient in key areas such as procedures, training and supervision.

As a result, Helmetta officials opted to hire another full-time police officer, enabling it to handle 24-hour coverage instead of paying Jamesburg for the extra patrols, Martin said. The police force is now made up of four fulltime and three part-time police officers.

“We renegotiated our PBA contract so it is more cost effective to have our own officer,” Martin said.

Officer Richard Bruno, of Old Bridge, was made a full-time officer after several months as a part-time patrolman. Martin said Helmetta would realize substantial savings by adding the full-time officer instead of renewing the interlocal agreement with Jamesburg.

Lori Russo, chief financial officer in Helmetta, said Helmetta paid approximately $62,000 per year to Jamesburg for its police department to provide coverage for one of each day’s three shifts. The cost savings as a result of the change amounts to roughly $15,000 per year for Helmetta, she said.

“We are a small town,” Russo said. “That’s a big savings to us.”

Helmetta Police Chief Cully Lewis said the estimated cost of the shifts provided by Jamesburg did not include overtime. He said that while the additional shifts have moderately increased the workload for the Helmetta department, the additional full-time officer has made covering the shifts significantly less difficult.

“With the hiring of a new officer, we were able to have a smooth transition,” Lewis said.

Bruno had been hired as a part-time officer earlier this year, Lewis said.

Bruno said he has two midnight shifts per week and works daytime and afternoon shifts the rest of the time. He added that Jamesburg police worked well with Helmetta.

“They actually provided a good service to this town,” Bruno said.

Bruno was a 911 dispatcher with the Old Bridge Police Department for six years, in addition to being a special police officer for that township. He also worked for the Belmar Police Department.

The new shifts are working out well for Helmetta police officers, Bruno said.

“When you’re a small town, you want to be here for all of the shifts,” Bruno said. “We like to be here. It’s more time we can be out there interacting with the residents.”

Jamesburg Mayor Anthony LaMantia said the expiration of the interlocal agreement would take some revenue out of Jamesburg’s operating budget for police, but said there are no hard feelings toward Helmetta. He noted that the option is there if the town ever wants to renew the agreement.

“It is their decision,” LaMantia said. “I have no complaints about it. We had a good relationship with them. We did a good job over there.

“We’ll be more than willing to work with them if they’re ever in need of assistance,” he added.

Martin said members of the Middlesex County Police Chiefs Association are providing guidance to Helmetta in updating rules and regulations, and putting improved procedures in place at no cost to the borough. She added that more responsibilities were delegated to Helmetta’s police sergeant position in order to provide relief to Lewis.

“At this point, we have been making a lot of progress, making improvements to the department,” Martin said. “With the new officer on, there have been a lot of new improvements.”

Lewis said his workload has become more manageable, since local police chiefs from nearby towns started reviewing existing policies in Helmetta and providing information and models for him to use. He added that the Sheriff ‘s Department helped Helmetta police with training, and the Prosecutor’s Office and various state police chiefs also provided assistance.

“They have been phenomenal,” Lewis said. “… I can’t express my appreciation enough to the chiefs and the prosecutors for the assistance they have given me.”