HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Thomas E. Stout, Hillsborough’s newest and youngest police officer, says he can remember wanting to be like his dad as young as three or four.
“My dad would come home in his uniform, I’d hear the stories about helping out people, I just knew from a young age that it was something I wanted to do, it was really the only thing I knew. As I grew older, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” the 22-year-old said.
His father, Franklin Police Sgt. Edward J. Stout Jr., is on the job in Franklin Township, and tells much the same story.
He, too, knew at a young age that he wanted to be a police officer – just like his father, Edward Sr.,who was a Special Police Officer in Little Silver where he grew up.
They’re one family, three generations of cops paying tribute to one another on Father’s Day.
As luck would have it, father and son are both off from work on Father’s Day, and plan to spend some quality time together with the rest of the family.
Edward Stout, on the job in Franklin for 26 ½ years remembers his admiration for his father, Edward Sr., and the uniform he wore at a young age. His father passed away 15 years ago, but the memories are strong.
“I didn’t know what it would all entail, but at a young age, it was a very cool thing,” Stout said. “I saw the way my father was with the community.
“All the way back to kindergarten, I remember there was a box of stuff for us to play with and there was a police hat; that was mine, I always wore that.
“I also remember coming out of school and he’d be working up the street on a detail, and I’d run down to see him,” Stout added.
“Early on, I remember when we had to do a report on a profession or something like that, I would always write about the police,” Stout said.
His son Thomas attended Raritan Valley Community College for two years and received an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. He then enrolled at Rutgers University, but left early in his junior year because he was accepted at the Monmouth County Police Academy which he attended from January-May 2016. He also went for extended training at the Cape May Police Academy from August, 2016 through January of this year, at which time he was contacted and hired by the Hillsborough Police Department.
His father, who did not attend college, waited five years to get that call.
“Franklin was the first place that offered me a position; I took it and I’ve been there ever since,” he said.
The elder Stout’s father offered encouragement and advice as he grew older, much of which was reinforced by the time spent in his Little Silver Explorer Post; the group leader had walked a beat with his father, and he related several stories about his dad, all of them good.
The elder Stout remembers asking his father questions about the job; one generation removed, he was the one answering the questions from his inquisitive son, Thomas.
“At a young age he was excited about it; he saw me come home every night, see me in uniform, he’d always come over, check things out on my belt.
“He asked an awful lot of questions,” he continued. “We’d watch “Cops” and other police shows together and I would always tell him ‘It’s not really like that;’ that small snippet of a half-hour program is not how it is; you may go days without any of those things happening, that’s not what it really looks like.
“But I was the same way at a young age; I thought it was driving around with the lights and sirens going, saving everybody but that’s not what happens,” Stout added.
“Now that he’s on the job it’s great to be able to speak with someone that understands it, the challenges,” he said.
The elder Stout offers advice when asked.
“I find myself holding back, I’ll wait for him to ask, ‘could I do it different, what would you do,’ ’’ Stout said. “I just know it’s good to hear him excited about wanting to do well and really caring about people.
“I’m grateful he has this opportunity to work there; it’s a good department and there’s room for advancement,” Stout said.
After he was hired, the rookie Stout went through two weeks of orientation and training before he was assigned to his Field Training Officer, working with the FTO through the end of April before he was ready to be on his own.
“I think I’m doing well so far,” he said. “Every day I’m still learning; there’s just so much to learn on this job; it’s a journey, from day one until the day you retire, you’re constantly learning,” he added.
“I’m grateful to be in Hillsborough, they’ve given me a wonderful opportunity and I look forward to working with them for the next 30 years,” the younger Stout said. “It would have been an honor to work with my dad in the same department, but Hillsborough is a fantastic town, a great place to work and we are working in neighboring towns,” he added.
The young Hillsborough officer said he looks forward to sharing his work day with his father.
“We talk about it every day since I started the police academy last year, I come home, I’ll ask him, ‘I ran into this today, how do you think I could have handled it better,’ ’’ he said.
“He’s a great police officer,” the younger Stout said. “I’m grateful and thankful that I have a father like him; I love talking about the job with him. He loves this profession, I love this profession. I enjoy talking about it with him and he enjoys talking about it with me.
“I was driving around last night, thinking about Father’s Day and everything he’s done for me to get here. Now that it’s Father’s Day and we’re both full-time police officers, it’s really special,” he said.
His father also reflected on his son, their jobs and passion for what they do.
“ I tell him the same thing every day when he leaves the house if I’m here.” Stout said. “Be safe, buddy, watch yourself all the time and he tells me the same thing, be careful out there.
“That’s a very strong bond,” the elder Stout continued. “It chokes me up a little bit when I think about it. Here’s one of my kids, who never worried about me leaving the house, telling me to be careful, because now he understands better what the job is all about.”