He grew up in Rumson, graduated from RFH and immediately joined the Red Bank Police Department in 1988. He worked patrol for fourteen years, moving up to Sargent, was promoted to Lieutenant in the Traffic Division, and then as Captain in the Detective Bureau.
Sworn in as Chief of Police in 2013, Darren McConnell commands a department of over forty officers, plus part-time and seasonal officers, and an administrative staff and dispatcher.
The Red Bank Police Department conveys a sense of professionalism combined with courtesy and respect that can be traced directly back to Chief McConnell.
It’s a big job. McConnell is not only responsible for the overseeing the department, but also for developing and managing the budget, manpower decisions and assignments.
Day to day is delegated to Captains Mike Frazee and Mike Clay.
Describing his management style, Chief McConnell said that he, “Likes to be involved, but I don’t micromanage. Every year I have all our administrative staff, myself, administrative sergeant, and our two captains, do two weeks at nights in the summer, on the road in a patrol car. This allows us to stay in touch with what’s going on in the streets, stay in touch with the problems that our officers are dealing with on a regular basis.”
Chief McConnell said that the Detective Bureau was his favorite assignment and if there’s an interesting case, “I like to stay involved to the extent of listening to where they’re at and maybe throwing out an idea. But then I back off and let them do their job. The thing is to give them ideas and the tools and stay out of their way.”
We talked about his departments’ interactions with the community, especially the issue of immigration which is a hot topic and the fear it has placed in the Hispanic community
Chief McConnell said, “I like to involve all our officers. We do a lot of outreach with community meetings and different segments of the community. I would go out into the community and take the younger officers with me. I want the young officers to see that side of the community. They see it from their perspective only; responding to calls and dealing with people in difficult situations. I like to involve them with the other side of it, so they can see the effect their work is having, whether it be good or bad.”
Chief McConnell described his ten weeks for leadership training at the FBI Academy in Quantico VA when he was a Captain back in 2011. He met police officers from around the U.S. and fifteen different countries.
“You get a different perspective of law enforcement from around the country, how different in can be in different places, and yet still be the same. The physical training, at forty something years old, to go back through police academy/military training was especially interesting. But I survived it and it was an accomplishment!” said the Chief.
Discussing Red Bank’s significant growth, the changes in terms of new apartments being constructed, more retail and an increase in visitors, Chief McConnell reflected that “Reportable crime as defined by the FBI has gone down dramatically from 1990 to 2017.”
“We’ve gotten a lot busier. When I first started here we were handling somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 to 13,000 service calls per year. Now we’re up to about 25,000 to 26,000. Our call volume has doubled, yet our crime rate has gone down which is a good trend. It does show how busy the town is but at the same time, how safe it is.”
Chief McConnell related how twenty-year veteran Dawn Shields is the full time Community Officer, going to all the schools except RBR, where she teaches drug and gang prevention programs. In the primary school she started an anti-bullying program. “She’s primarily there to teach and interact with the kids with any programs they have, Field day, etc., she goes and participates with them.” (photo courtesy of The Monmouth Journal)
In addition, “Patrol officers on their shift are required to walk through the schools each day, check in at the office, talk with the teachers and be a presence.”
Talking about his son Darren, who was recently sworn in as a Red Bank Police officer, he said that, “I was a little surprised actually. I never thought he had any intention of becoming a police officer. He went to Rutgers business school for finance and economics, was a first aid captain in Rumson, and a part time dispatcher and special officer in Sea Bright. I’m proud that he wanted to do it, but shocked that he did!”
Chief McConnell spoke about what gives him the most satisfaction with his job:
“I like watching our detectives or even our patrol officers seeing a case through that’s a little more challenging then some. Watching them follow the turns and sometimes the surprises and get to a conclusion on what really happened. And then comparing the facts with what the initial indications or suspicions were and see how close it was. Sometimes it’s right on and sometimes it takes a surprising turn.”
On the most difficult aspect of being Chief, McConnell said that, “In my role now, the most challenging is when we have promotions internally. We have so many good people, you get to know them all, like them all, and it becomes difficult. So many are deserving to move up through the ranks, and they all will in time, but we only have so much upward movement and availability.”
Asked to describe any “I can’t believe this” moments the Chief said, “I came here as a nineteen-year-old kid and to become Chief twenty-five years later, that’s almost something I can’t believe happened!”
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