SPARTA, NJ – Sparta Police Department has a new chief. On Friday evening approximately 200 people gathered in the Sparta High School auditorium to be a part of the ceremony elevating Neil Spidaletto to Chief. Additionally Det. Sgt Terrence Mulligan, Sgt John Lamon and Sgt. Dennis Proctor were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
The ceremony was opened by the bagpipes of the Morris County Pipes and Drums, leading the procession of the Sparta Township Police officers to the stage. Mayor Gilbert Gibbs welcomed everyone and introduced Sparta High School Student Ryden Mederos. The Color Guard came to the stage as Mederos led the room in the National Anthem.
Gibbs then introduced Councilman Josh Hertzberg who served as the master of ceremony for the event.
Monsignor Kiernan McHugh was next to the podium to offer a prayer of Invocation.
Councilwoman Christine Quinn was called up to give a brief history of the Sparta Police Department. She explained the first patrolman for the town was Harry Ducey a 30-year-old who was working in construction at Lake Mohawk. He patrolled the area on horseback. Four years later he was made Special Officer by the township with his wife Lila serving as the first dispatcher. The phone line was installed in their home for after hours calls. When calls came in Lila would turn on the porch light to signal the need for help. The “Ducey porch light notification system” was later expanded to four signal lights. Finally the horse was replaced by a patrol car and in 1945 the first car radios were installed.
After Quinn, Hertzberg introduced Senator Steve Oroho who said the first time he met Spidaletto was in a social setting but he thought “he is really a great guy.” “Also,” Oroho said, “he went to Villanova, my daughter graduated from Villanova, I like Villanova.” He completed the remarks, “I want to thank you very much. Thank you for the honor of being here.”
Sparta Township Manager William Close spoke to the crowd. “As we usher in the new leadership, it is an honor to be here. I want to take this opportunity to thank all to the officers for the fine work they do every day,” Close said.
Turning his comments to Spidaletto Close said. “Neil has proven himself as a respectable leader during his time with the Sparta Police Department. He has served this community with dedication on and off the job to the community and the officers who serve with him. Neil is up to the challenge and he will exceed expectations. To say he is qualified is an understatement.”
Close spoke of the three officers about to be promoted to Lieutenant. “There were a number of qualified candidates, which shows the depth of talent,” in the Sparta Police Department. “They will be an asset to Chief Spidaletto, to the department and to the community they serve.
“I am struck by their energy, enthusiasm and their desire to continue to learn more.” Turning to the officers, “I am confident you will meet the challenges before you and raise to bar of those with whom you will serve.”
Spidaletto was sworn in by Judge Peter Conforti with his wife and daughter at his side and parents and in-laws on the stage with him.
Other notable attendees included;
- Newton Chief Michael Richards, President of the Sussex County Association of Chiefs of Police
- Hardyston Chief Bret Alemy, Vice President of the Sussex County Association of Chiefs of Police,
- Byram Chief Peter Zibita, Secretary of the Sussex County Association of Chiefs of Police,
- Ogdensburg Chief Stephen Gordon,
- Vernon Chief Randy Mills,
- Hopatcong Chief Robert Brennan,
- Stanhope Chief Steven Pittigher,
- Franklin Borough Chief Eugene McInerney,
- New Jersey State Police Officer Brian Murphy from Troop B Sussex Station
- Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada,
- Sussex County Under Sheriff and Retired Sparta Detective John Shanstra
- Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Francis Koch,
- Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Greg Mueller,
- Sussex County Prosecutor Investigator Captain Don Peter,
- Retired Sparta Police Chief Donald Earl,
- Retired Sparta Police Chief Richard Hamler
- Retired Sparta Chief Ernest Reigstad
- Sparta Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith
One of the many experiences of Spidaletto brings to the job is having trained for 10 weeks with Class 262 of the FBI National Academy in 2015, the first Sparta officer to do so in more than 30 years. A number of his classmates were at the ceremony, some having traveled long distances. New Jersey officers from West Orange, Howell, Medford Township, Ocean City were joined by officers from Duxbury, Massachusetts, Euclid and Richmond Heights, Ohio and Clarkstown, New York all members of the same FBI National Academy class.
In his remarks Spidaletto noted Chiefs from Essex Fells, Mountain Lakes, Netcong, Mount Arlington and Washington Township were in the auditorium. He also thanked representatives of Sparta Fire Department and Ambulance Squad for attending the ceremony. “Your presence here shows your overwhelming support for the Sparta Police Department,” Spidaletto said.
In his remarks, Spidaletto said, “I’ve been very fortunate to have been raised in this town. The educational system in second to none,” thanking the “many Sparta High School and Pope John alumni for coming out.” Spidaletto graduated from Sparta High School.
His father Joseph joined the Sparta Police Department in 1998, moving from the Jersey City Fire Department. “I’m very proud of my father,” Spidaletto said, “I have an advantage in being able to consult with him. It does feel kinda [sic] good that I can say I officially out rank him. Isn’t that right Lieutenant?” he said with a smile.
“While the chief sets the mission, the officers set the standards,” Spidaletto said. “The position has gotten more complex…It is a very rewarding job but it can be very difficult. There are the common challenges that go with shift work and missing holidays and there are emotional challenges that often take a toll. I am confident in the officers at the Sparta Police Department.”
He continued in his remarks explaining new and ongoing initiatives, including achieving Accreditation for the Morris County Insurance Fund. This will be “a significant professional achievement, when completed.” Ongoing initiatives include Sparta Township Emergency Preparedness or STEP, Sussex County CLEAR Program and the recent resolution to name Sparta a Stigma Free community.
Reaching back through the history of policing Spidaletto quoted from Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Police eventually distilling them down to one familiar phrase of Protect and Serve. He said there were “maybe over 1000 years of law enforcement experience in the room,” and they serve as his “brain trust.” He thanked the civilian members of the team including the administrative assistant who has served four of the nine Sparta Chiefs and who “gets younger with each chief.”
Spidaletto concluded his remarks saying the Sparta Police Department will “remain vigilant and positive…show compassion and empathy…and strive to improve.” He thanked his wife “Lisa, my rock, my foundation, my motivation and my dedication. Without her, I am not standing here."
Judge Conforti next administered the oath of office to the three officers standing among family members on the front of the stage.
Hertzburg closed out the ceremony saying they are “the reason Sparta is consistently ranked at the top of safest towns in New Jersey. Thank you for accepting the responsibility.”
The chief and three lieutenants left the stage. The Honor Guard led the remaining officers off the stage.