Originally published by Burlington County Times, republished under Creative Common License
FLORENCE -- The police chief has come under fire from the municipality and from rank-and-file members of his department.
Chief John Bunce was taken off the job earlier this week until the conclusion of an investigation concerning his conduct.
Township Administrator Richard Brook said Bunce was placed on paid administrative leave Monday afternoon, effective immediately. Bunce could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The action is considered a personnel matter, and officials could not divulge details of what triggered the investigation or when the matter would be resolved.
“The fact is we believe this was needed to restore the vested trust of the rank and file, the township and the community,” Brook said.
Hours after the decision, the municipality received a letter from the Florence Township Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 210 and an official notice of a unanimous vote of no confidence in the chief.
The letter spelled out a number of alleged misdeeds concerning Bunce, including misusing criminal justice information systems, which led to an internal investigation; taking extended leaves during work hours; taking home a department Wi-Fi surveillance camera system for his own use; and accepting donations from a local business and giving them out as gifts to family members and friends.
In addition, the FOP indicated that Bunce created and revised department policies that give the chief final say on matters such as personal conduct, background hiring process, off-duty employment and internal affairs.
“This dictator style of decision-making regarding the department, its operations and future devalues the opinions and work of his command staff and the members of this department,” said the letter, which was signed by FOP president Chris Powell on behalf of the members of the department and lodge.
The letter went on to question Bunce’s leadership and what it has done to the force.
“In summary, members from every rank have described morale within the department as detrimentally low,” Powell said.
He said numerous officers have asked to transfer to another department, sought other employment, or retired due to the chief’s actions.
“Chief Bunce has created a hostile and toxic work environment, and it appears obvious that he has failed to uphold his oath of office in leading our rank-and-file officers,” Powell said. “Chief Bunce has brought embarrassment to the township, its leaders, and most importantly the citizens of this town.”
John Paff, of the Libertarians for Transparent Government, made the letter public Thursday as well as the township’s response to a recent Open Public Records Act request he filed about the matter Wednesday.
Despite the allegations, the chief will continue to be paid his salary.
Hired in 1999, Bunce earns $130,669 a year to lead the department, which is made up of 25 full-time officers, special officers and staff. He was named chief in 2015.