The police department of Pine Valley operates from a small white house with lime-green office walls, where Richard Rauer, the captain, answers the phone.
He and his five officers share one squad car. But the department is unlike any other in the state. Even some law enforcement officials outside New Jersey say they’ve never heard of one like it: Its job is to protect a golf course — albeit the world’s best, according to Golf Magazine — which occupies most of Pine Valley’s one square mile and is the reason for the Camden County borough’s existence.
The 12 residents barely outnumber the six officers. Rauer acknowledges his officers encounter little crime. The department averages one or two arrests a year, “maybe less.”
“If anything,” said Bob Mather, 87, the borough clerk who has worked there since 1969, “the police department acts as a deterrent to outsiders — outsiders that would like to come in here to do harm.”
Naturally, there’s plenty of downtime, which officers try to fill by driving around on patrol, looking to be of help in a power outage or a medical emergency.
Rauer insists his department’s mission is the same as that of any other. His officers undergo firearms and pursuit training each year. And Pine Valley’s residents — who must be members of the famous invitation-only golf club — need protection, too, he said.
“It’s no different than any other town,” he said.
Rauer scoffs at the department’s critics, who include Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., who said in 2007 that the Pine Valley police force “makes no sense.” A spokesman said Cappelli still holds that view.
“That’s like saying they don’t need one in their town,” Rauer said, sitting in the borough hall. The building is on an unmarked road just past two “Dead End” signs.
Rauer’s department is Pine Valley’s biggest expense: $225,000, or nearly half the $474,000 budget, less than 1 percent of which comes from state aid.
The pay is low, though. The one full-time and four part-time officers, not including Rauer, make between $7,000 and $27,000. Rauer, who is full-time, makes nearly $42,000.