By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City’s police department appears well on its way to being reaccredited for the next three years, a confirmation that it is complying with more than 100 of the highest standards of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
A team of assessors from the NJSACOP arrived in Sea Isle on Tuesday to tour police headquarters, inspect the department’s equipment and to take calls from the public as part of a final on-site assessment.
The assessors will make their recommendations to the NJSACOP’s New Jersey Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, which is scheduled to decide June 8 whether to renew Sea Isle’s accreditation for the next three years.
One of the assessors, Capt. Thomas Reinholt, of the Evesham Police Department in Burlington County, said he had no concerns with Sea Isle’s police operations and indicated he is ready to recommend reaccreditation.
“There’s no reason at this point why we would not make that recommendation,” Reinholt said.
Another assessor, Lt. William Baskay, of the Mount Laurel Township Police Department in Burlington County, noted that the NJSACOP’s standards apply equally to all departments statewide seeking accreditation.
“The standards are the same, whether they are in Hoboken or Cape May,” Baskay said. “They say that the biggest challenge, once they get their first accreditation, is getting it again.”
The assessors did the bulk of their work before arriving in Sea Isle for the on-site inspection. Previously, they went through boxes of the police department’s policy files from 2014, 2015 and 2016.
During a tour of City Hall, the assessors met Sea Isle Councilwoman Mary Tighe, who assured them that the police department has the full support of city government.
“Public safety is No. 1,” Tighe said.
“We have a lot of support in getting what we need,” added Sea Isle police Capt. Thomas McQuillen, who conducted the tour.
The accreditation process includes an analysis of all aspects of the Sea Isle City Police Department’s policies and procedures, management, operations and support services. Altogether, the police force must comply with 105 NJSACOP standards to achieve accredited status.
“Verification by the NJSACOP team that the Sea Isle City Police Department meets the Commission’s best practice standards is part of a voluntary process to achieve accreditation, a highly-prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence,” Police Chief Thomas D’Intino said in a statement.
D’Intino, a 28-year veteran of the department who became chief in 2008, said one of his goals after he took charge was gaining accreditation for Sea Isle for the first time. The accreditation process was slowed after Hurricane Sandy battered Sea Isle in 2012, forcing the town to build a new City Hall and police headquarters to replace their badly damaged predecessors.
Police accreditation was originally granted to Sea Isle in March 2014. Once they are accredited, police departments must submit annual reports over a three-year period confirming that they continue to comply with the NJSACOP standards.
“Accreditation results in greater accountability within the agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, stronger defense against civil lawsuits, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and respond to community needs,” D’Intino said in his statement.
In an interview Tuesday, D’Intino said the accreditation process has nothing to do with an ongoing dispute with the union representing the police department’s rank-and-file officers. As reported by ocnjdaily.com in January, the union has questioned D’Intino’s leadership and complained about alleged low morale within the department.
City Council and Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration have defended D’Intino against the union’s accusations, asserting that he has been unfairly targeted during a dispute over police grievances, disciplinary action and contract matters. D’Intino also has the backing of the Cape May County Chiefs of Police Association.
In a Dec. 16 letter to the union, Sea Isle Business Administrator George Savastano said that under D’Intino’s leadership, the department “emerged from the stigma” of being under county monitoring to become an accredited police force.
For his part, D’Intino has offered assurances that the police department is functioning normally.
The department has 21 full-time officers, including the chief. It expects to make a new hire this year to reach its full complement of 22 officers, D’Intino said.
D’Intino stressed that accreditation will be good for the department across-the-board, particularly for the younger, less experienced officers.
“Everybody’s on board and held accountable with the policies,” he said. “Everybody does their job with the accreditation process.”
During their visit to Sea Isle on Tuesday, the assessors were scheduled to take calls and emails from city employees and members of the public.
Written comments about the police department’s ability to comply with the accreditation standards may be emailed to the accreditation program manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, letters may be mailed to the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission at 751 Route 73 North, Suite 12, Marlton, N.J. 08053.
A copy of the NJSACOP standards is available for public viewing at police headquarters in City Hall on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. To obtain a copy, contact Detective Sgt. William Bradshaw at (609) 263-4311, ext. 2302.