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Mon, Jul 09, 2012

New Jersey Township Police Charge Flying Lessons To The Taxpayers

Two West Windsor Officers Used Training Program For Helicopter Instruction

Two police officers in the township of West Windsor, NJ, are asking to be paid back for some expensive flying lessons through a police training reimbursement program, even though the township owns no aircraft and the training is not relevant to the officers' jobs.

The two officers racked up flying lessons to the tune of $23,000, according to a report in NJ.com. Another took two courses on modern China at the University of Pennsylvania, which will cost the taxpayers another $12,000.

In all, the education training program has cost the township $107,000 this year, but so far, the township has refused to pay for the helicopter lessons. Officials say they don't have a helicopter, don't have any plans to buy a helicopter, and therefore don't have any need for police officers who can fly a helicopter.

The local policeman's union has so far kept mum on the issue, but the contract they have with the township does say the government should "automatically" approve 100 percent reimbursement for "any associates, bachelors, or masters degree-producing program." That contract has since been amended to specify coursework that is associated with police work or law-enforcement degrees, but these expenses were incurred before the contract was changed.

Police Chief Joe Pica said that the charges are currently under review, and the final ruling will come either through arbitration or litigation. Councilman Bryan Maher told NJ.com that the council is very unhappy with the prospect of paying the bills, particularly since there is no helicopter to fly.

Mahar did say that paying for the lessons is not "budget busting", amounting to just a small fraction of the township's $34 million budget. But he does want to stop the practice in the future.

An attorney who represents 75 New Jersey municipalities said that no other township has had to pay for helicpter lessons because of the reimbursement provisions.

FMI: www.westwindsornj.org

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