It is with deep sadness that I announce the retirement of our Police Chief, John DiPasquale, who has served our community so honorably as Chief over the last 7 years and in the BHPD for the last 25 years.
With the retirement of our Chief, Berkeley Heights will be losing a visionary who has created a Department that is respected and an integral part of our community. The appointment of a new Chief is one which should not be taken lightly and one that certainly should not be politicized. With the current civil unrest in our Country, the future of our Police Department, it’s policies and procedures, it’s interaction with our residents and protecting the safety of our families and most importantly - our children - our next Chief needs to be well qualified and prepared for these challenges from Day One. The seamless and peaceful transition from Chief DiPasquale to our next Chief has never been of such great importance to our community.
I felt compelled to write this - to educate residents on the process and the facts surrounding this particular process - after a TAP article was posted by one of my Council colleagues.
Local government can be confusing to many residents. To muddle matters, Berkeley Heights also has a unique form of government-- Mayor-Council-Administrator-- only in effect in two other municipalities in New Jersey. There is not much precedence for how the government runs.
In the context of the appointment of a Police Chief, under our form of government, the Chief is a Mayoral appointment with advice and consent from Council. Fortunately, we have several qualified candidates from our own police ranks who applied for the position. The position of Chief must be held by someone with at least 3 years of experience in the BHPD.
First thing residents should know is the Mayor serves as the “Appropriate Authority.” That means that the police department reports directly to the Mayor. “The mayor shall supervise the chief of police with respect to the efficiency and routine day-to-day operations of the police division and shall establish and promulgate rules and regulations for the government of the police department and discipline of the police department's members.” (Berkeley Heights Township Code)
I'm taking this responsibility very seriously, so over the past two-and-a-half months, I have undertaken an extensive process to ensure we make the right choice for Berkeley Heights. I also felt it was vital to involve and include our current Chief, John DiPasquale, in every step of this decision. The Chief and I have worked very closely on some incredibly difficult community issues over the last two years; I listen to his advice with tremendous deference.
In early November, candidates qualified to apply for the position under state and local law were notified. Candidates supplied me with cover letters and resumes. I conducted interviews with each candidate. Letters of recommendation followed, as did my request for additional certification, awards and commendations. Following this process, which took about a month, I met with Chief DiPasquale to undertake a deep dive into the duties and responsibilities of the Chief of Police as well as the background, experience, training of both candidates.
The final step in this process is advice and consent from Council; no one person on Council dictates this process. Though our government does not clearly spell out a distinct process, appointing a Chief is a matter I would like to codify with Chief DiPasquale before his retirement. To that end, I provided Council with a significant amount of background information and afforded them the opportunity to discuss and ask questions of myself and the two candidates for Chief in a Special Meeting held last Wednesday night.
While four members of the governing body made a decision not to participate due to the inclusion of certain personnel - even though a compromise was offered - a successful interview process did take place with myself and two of the members of the governing body. I now will move forward and schedule an additional Special Meeting of the Township Council next week to accommodate the conditions requested by those who did not participate last night.
Appointing a Police Chief is a critical part of my duty as Appropriate Authority. Please know that I take that responsibility earnestly. Thank you for staying informed; I look forward to announcing my appointed for Police Chief in the coming days. Additionally, I hope the community will take the opportunity to get to know our new Chief after he is officially installed.