Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office to oversee internal affairs for Pennington police

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office will temporarily take over the Pennington Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, after Borough Council members approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the prosecutor’s office.

Through a resolution on Sept. 8 in a council meeting, council members voted unanimously to approve the measure.

“This is going to cover the police department for internal affairs. Prior to becoming chief, I was the internal affairs officer,” Police Chief Doug Pinelli said. “As the officer in charge, I can no longer do that and I am the only officer certified in the police department to handle internal affairs.”

Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri has appointed Lt. Bryan Cottrell, a sworn officer of the prosecutor’s investigative staff, to serve as the monitor overseeing Pennington’s Internal Affairs Unit, according to the resolution.

“I have the prosecutor’s office in the interim, until I can get Officer Novin Thomas and Officer Daryl Burroughs certified in internal affairs. The monitor will come at no charge,” Pinelli said. “They have agreed to oversee anything of an internal affairs nature that we have.”

The passage of the resolution followed the authorization of Pinellis’ employment contract, ending a months-long process that began with his appointment as police chief in the spring.

Pinelli was named police chief following the retirement of longtime Public Safety Director William Meytrott.

For three years, borough officials had been examining the best structure for the police department in planning for Meytrott’s eventual retirement, which occurred on May 1.

Meytrott served for more than 20 years as the civilian head of the police department.

Members of the Pennington Public Safety Committee, in conversations with Meytrott and outside advisers, determined that having a police chief leading the police department would provide greater flexibility and operational efficiencies.

A police chief is a sworn officer who can perform duties a civilian public safety director cannot perform. For example, Meytrott was not permitted to oversee active investigations and Pinelli, as a sergeant, had to take on that responsibility.