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Pennington seeks to finalize employment process of Chief Doug Pinelli

Pennington Council members are moving forward with an ordinance authorizing the employment contract of Chief of Police Doug Pinelli.

The Pennington Council will vote to adopt an ordinance authorizing the agreement at a Sept. 8 council meeting. Pinelli has been serving as chief since his appointment to the position in May, following the retirement of longtime Public Safety Director William Meytrott.

“I want to thank Doug for his patience on this. It took a lot longer than we expected just working on the details of the command vehicle. We are very excited to have him as chief and he has done a great job so far,” Mayor Joe Lawver said during the Aug. 3 council meeting. “I think he is moving the department in a positive direction.”

For three years, borough officials had been examining the best structure for the police department in planning for Meytrott’s eventual retirement, which occurred in May. Meytrott had served for more than 20 years as the civilian head of the police department.

The Pennington Public Safety Committee, in conversations with Meytrott and outside advisors, had come to the decision that having a police chief heading the police department provided greater flexibility and operational efficiencies.

A public safety director or police director are limited in their powers compared to a police chief. The powers unavailable to directors include conducting a motor vehicle stop; stop, detain or also arrest individuals; wear a law enforcement officer uniform; and see any internal investigations and any active cases, according to state documents.

Police chiefs are sworn officers and can perform all the duties that public safety directors cannot. The certain duties unavailable to Meytrott fell to First Sgt. Doug Pinelli within department leadership. Over the previous two years, under the public safety director model, it was difficult for the sergeant to spread those duties around, officials stated at the time of Pinelli’s appointment.

“We decided that we are going to a chief model, where the police chief will be the primary officer in charge, but he/she will be able to delegate duties more effectively than we were able to do under the director model,” Lawver said.

Pennington held interviews with three applicants who applied for the position of chief. Pinelli was selected and then appointed to chief for a one-year probationary period. He must fulfill certain requirements for the interim status of chief to be removed.

Pinelli will have to complete four courses: the West Point Command and Leadership course, supervision and advance police supervision courses provided by Somerset County Police Academy or a similar police academy, and a new police chief training course sponsored by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Once Pinelli’s training is complete, his salary will rise to $115,000. He is currently starting at $109,000.

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