NEWTON, NJ—Sunday afternoon, sirens could be heard as dozens of police, fire and ambulance vehicles complete with flashing lights, made their way past Tomasula’s house to pay tribute to him. Just hours later he lost his battle with cancer.
The ninth chief of the Newton Police Department, Tomasula had recently been promoted to undersheriff in March 2018. In this position he assumed the responsibility for day-to-day oversight of the county correctional facility.
Town Manager, Thomas S Russo Jr. announced Tomasula’s passing on the town website Monday.
“Born and raised in Newton," Russo said. “He began his career as a police officer on April 22, 1985, serving three years as a foot patrol officer in the downtown business district. He was then assigned to the Detective Bureau in September 1988 where he spent six years assigned to major crime investigations, crime scene, and evidence handling.”
According to the announcement while he was with the Detective Bureau, Tomasula created the Newton Police Department’s Bicycle Patrol Program, which is still used in the downtown business district.
Tomasula was promoted to Sergeant on March 14,1994 and assigned as road supervisor. In August 1995, he was promoted to Captain, where he was assigned the day-to-day operations responsibilities.
“During his tenure with the Town of Newton, John constantly strived to improve himself as well as the Department,” Russo said.
Tomasula continued to improve himself throughout his career. He was a graduate of the New Jersey State Police Academy, the West Point Command Leadership Program and the FBI National Academy, Session 223, as well as earning certification in Major Crime Investigations and Police Leadership/Administration.
In June 2000, Tomasula was appointed as Newton’s Ninth Chief of Police. In his ten years as Chief, he provided police officers and support staff the most contemporary and comprehensive training available, promoted and advanced the highest ethical and professional standards in law enforcement, and enhanced as well as developed new strategies and commitments to community-police partnerships, according to Russo’s announcement.
The chief retired from the Newton Police Department in 2010 only to then continue to serve the Town as a Special Police Officer for several years. He was appointed to the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office as director of communications in December 2014 where he was tasked with overseeing implementation of the new countywide 9-1-1 system.
Tomasula is survived by his wife Anna-Marie and children Alec, Josh, and Abbey. Russo ended the announcement with his own words of sympathy to the family.
“Rest in Peace dear friend and thoughtful public servant Chief John D. Tomasula,” Russo said. “Thank you for being a part of the fabric of the Town of Newton for so many years and for being a kind, dedicated, and committed leader for so many. You will be missed. May God bless John’s soul and the lives of his family, friends, and loved ones during their time of grief.”
Many current and former members of the Newton Police Department and the Town of Newton took to Facebook to express their grief over his loss and to pay tribute to him in their own way. A few were available for additional comments as this story was written.
“John was a longtime friend, a respected leader, and a great father and family man. He always put others before himself. Long before I took over as Chief from him, he was a mentor and role model to me as a Detective and a police supervisor,” former Newton Chief of Police, Michael Richards said. “After becoming Chief, I would often seek his advice as there are situations and decisions only other Police Chiefs can truly understand. I'll miss his friendship, his counsel, his grit and his positive outlook. He was a good man, and his life's legacy is the positive impact he's had on countless people in our community.”
Newton Police Officer Ken Teets said, “John Tomasula was the Captain of the Department when I got hired. He initially hired me as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher and later as a Police Officer. He was the first person to believe in me that I could do the job after struggling through most of my life with a severe stutter.
“Chief Tomasula took a chance with me when no one else would. I will never forget the faith he had in me and I appreciate everything he has done for me and my wife Michelle. Ironically, my father was involved in hiring and training John as a Police Officer. He will be truly missed.”
Newton’s current Police Chief, Robert Osborn said, “John D. Tomasula, the ninth Newton Chief of Police, passed away on April 19, 2020 after waging a COURAGEOUS battle with cancer for many years.
“Chief Tomasula has been the most reliable friend, mentor and leader among law enforcement in Sussex County for nearly 40 years. He embodied all that was right about Law Enforcement. He was instrumental in developing a culture at the Newton Police Department for over 25 years that was centered around Integrity, Character and Selflessness. He was always found doing for others and would shy away from any assistance ever offered to him. From his days as an outstanding Detective and coordinating the Annual PBA Fishing Contest to his tenure as Chief of Police and Sussex County Undersheriff, John always placed his service above self, showing genuine care for those under his leadership.
Chief Tomasula had also developed strong relationships with residents, business owners, community leaders and fellow law enforcement agencies alike. These interactions left them with an indelible impression that still exists today. A bond that was always grounded in fairness, compassion and general overall decency.
Chief Tomasula was also instrumental in the expansion of our police department and the construction of our present police headquarters. Without his vision and guidance, we would not enjoy some of the advancements and benefits that we experience today to assist us in doing our jobs. His many sacrifices and efforts on our behalf have contributed to our agency being the department it is today and a favorable view of law enforcement being undertaken by the general public due to his interactions with them through the years.
But most importantly, John was a great family man, friend and mentor to so many. He was an officer that led by example and one that many tried to emulate. As fine as an officer as he was, he was even a better human being and one whose friendship is irreplaceable. People like John come along once in a lifetime and for those of you that were fortunate enough to know him, and call him a friend, you would all agree that you are a better person because of having him in your lives.”