According to Morris County officials, the Morris County Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution tonight authorizing the Morris County Park Police to be absorbed into the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, a move that will keep the 29 park officers on staff and enable an increase in overall park patrols.
The resolution followed a vote on Monday by the Morris County Park Commission to merge the state’s last remaining county Park Police department into the Sheriff’s Office.
Officials said Park Commission, which operates on revenues derived from park-related recreational activities and funding provided annually by the county, remains an autonomous agency and approved the plan before Morris County Commissioners could vote on any action, officials say.
“I am very honored to witness the joining of these two very sophisticated Morris County law enforcement agencies. The Park Officers are some of the very best.
The Sheriff’s Office and Park Police already work together routinely," said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.
"This change will bring further opportunities to the Park Police staff as well as the Sheriff Officers, and it is in the best interest of the people of Morris County.”
Officials say the merger was prompted by concerns over insurance coverage for the park officers.
It brings the park police in line with insurance coverage afforded all other officers in law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey, particularly in terms of coverage should any legal actions arise regarding an officer’s performance of their duties, county officials say.
“The Park Police have done an exemplary job in protecting the public, park staff, and the County's 39 park facilities, and while the County has sought for years to merge the park police into the Sheriff's Office, events over the past few years make this transition prudent and timely," said Park Commission President Stuart Lasser.
"This structural change, along with appropriate funding, will offer the County's parks enhanced safety and security."
County officials state that the change will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, when the Park Police will become part of the 90-member Bureau of Law Enforcement of the Sheriff’s Office.
“This is a plan that will enhance the park operations. The Sheriff anticipates adding several officers to bolster park patrols. The park system is the largest county park system in the state and integral to the quality of life we work to preserve in Morris County," said Commissioner Director Stephen H. Shaw.
"This consolidation will ensure that this important resource continues to be safe and enjoyable for all our residents."
According to county officials, the Morris County Park system, with over 20,000 acres of parkland, is the largest county park system in New Jersey.
Visited by nearly 4 million people each year, it offers 39 facilities, including historic sites, golf courses, outdoor educational and recreational facilities, arboreta, conservation areas, 216 miles of trails and an ice skating arena.
Park activities operate year-round, requiring police presence to ensure the safety of visitors and park employees alike.