By DON STINE
The newly-formed Neptune Police Committee held its first public meeting this week where residents raised a number of questions about problems in the township’s police department and what will be done to correct them.
The meeting, attended by more than 50 people, was sponsored by the Asbury Park/Neptune Ministerial Alliance and held at the annex of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church on Drummond Avenue.
The new committee is made up of Mayor Michael Brantley, Deputy Mayor Nick Williams and retired Newark Police Captain Barry Colicelli. The committee will oversee the Neptune police department with the chief running the day-to-day operations. It was formed in the wake of several lawsuits filed against the township involving the police deparment.
Brantley said the police committee now has the authority to look into issues within the police department .
“It’s high time we stepped in and do what we are going to do,” he said. “We are doing exactly what we need to do and are looking at a number of things in the police department. We are looking at everything.”
He said that residents should look for some actions being taken by the police committee at upcoming Township Committee meetings.
“We want to see changes in Neptune and they will be as good as they can be. Watch Neptune, just watch Neptune,” he said.
Williams said the police committee has met about 10 times so far but added “it is going to take a while” to get up to speed.
Colicelli said that Neptune officials took a “giant leap” in forming the special police committee and that other communities are watching what the committee will do in the future.
Colicelli said he, personally, is getting up to speed about the township’s police problems and issues by doing a lot of research and reading about the issues.
“I want to do a lot of thinking outside of the box. I think you will be pleased where this goes. We know where we are now but we need to know where we are going,” he said.
He said that involving the local churches and social agencies is an important step in dealing with crime among young people.
Residents asked a number of questions, including who is watching and overseeing the police department at its highest levels, the sexual harassment lawsuits and settlements, creating a civilian review board, and about changing the culture within the police department.
“There are going to be changes to the culture, make no mistake,” Brantley said.
Colicelli said there is always a “possibility” that a civilian review board may be created “but that it not on the horizon yet.”
Committee members said that various lawsuits concerning the police department are under review but that they cannot comment on them due to legal issues.
Creating the new police committee now eliminates the Police Director position, formerly held by township CFO Michael J. Bascom for the last four years, and turns it over to the three-member police committee.