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Women's History Month April 2012

Congratulating Det. Patricia Abrahamsen for being honored by the Morris County Prosecutors office during Women’s History Month in April of 2012!







The Rockaway Township Police Department


Prior to the formation of the Rockaway Township Police Department, police protection of the township was provided by members of Troop B of the N.J. State Police out of the now closed Newfoundland Barracks from 1921 until the department’s establishment in 1946. These troopers patrolled the township by means of both horses and motorcycles in the warmer months, switching to automobiles in the winter.

Before the formation of the N.J. State Police in 1921, law enforcement for the township rested with the Morris County Sheriff and town constables appointed by the mayor and ruling body of the township. The town constable position continued to be an appointed position within the township, even after the N.J. State Police assumed patrol responsibilities for those municipalities without their own police departments. However, the constable’s job was then limited to the service of subpoenas and other civil duties,
such as conducting dog censuses, as opposed to actual law enforcement.

The last town constable in Rockaway Township was John Hopler of the Hibernia section of the township. He served from the 1930’s until the police department’s organization.

The town council and mayor had discussed forming a police department beginning in the late 1930s to early 1940s. These discussions grew out of the continued growth of the township’s Rt.46 business corridor and the increased war industry activity going on at Picatinny Arsenal and surrounding war plants as World War II broke out in Europe. The result of America becoming the Arsenal of Democracy was an influx of people into the township to work in the new defense factories.

America’s entry into World War II delayed any further discussions regarding the formation of a police department until the end of hostilities occurred. Concerns over security and law enforcement within Picatinny Arsenal were relieved for the time being due to the assignment of a military police detachment to the arsenal. With the end of the war, however, the MP unit was disbanded and its members either transferred or discharged.

With the ending of the war, the town council again revisited the issue of forming a police department. With the increase in population brought about by the war and with the availability of a number of fit, disciplined men newly discharged from the armed services, the town’s ruling body decided to act. On January 2, 1946, the Rockaway Township Police Department was created by township ordinance.

The first police officer appointed by the town council was Ernest A. Powers, who was sworn in soon after the ordinance was passed to create the department. A few months later, William Struble was hired as the township’s second officer. This resulted in the elevation of Officer Powers to the position of Chief of Police within the two man department, a position he retained until his retirement in September 1975. A third
officer, Joseph W. Albensi, was appointed in January 1948. The department operated out of a small building to the rear of the old Mt. Hope Firehouse on Rockaway Road, which formerly housed the township’s public works department.

The 1950s saw the hiring of five additional officers as the department expanded. Officers Struble and Albensi were promoted to become the department’s first lieutenant and sergeant respectively, when the positions were created. Officers hired in the 1950s included John Welch, Jack Sembers, Anthony George, Alfred Andreassen, Peter Petersen, and Paul Johnson.

These early officers worked an 8 hour shift and patrolled the entire 46 square miles of the township alone, with only Chief Powers working during the day shift if an additional officer was needed. If an officer needed assistance, backup would have to come from the state police or neighboring towns. One thing that aided in this was the fact that all of the departments in the area worked of a common radio frequency out of
Dover P.D. headquarters.

The township department itself found a new home in the 1950s when the department relocated to 19 Mt. Hope Road. Here the department shared office space in the building with other township offices on the first floor while the basement was totally devoted to the police department. This address would be the department’s home until the new municipal building was completed in 1981 at its present location.

The 1960s saw the department to continue to increase in size as the township grew. Additional officers were appointed almost yearly as predominately summer communities such as Green Pond and White Meadow Lake became year round neighborhoods and demands for police services rose as the population did. This increase in manpower allowed the department to divide the township into two patrol districts with an officer covering each.

1960 was the year that Rockaway Township finally received its own radio system/dispatch center when a new police desk was installed in police headquarters. The new radio system also brought about the hiring of the first civilian police dispatchers, who were James Meeks and Richard Hornick.

Civil Service was introduced to the township police department in 1964. Prior to this, officer hiring and promotions were at the discretion of the town council and mayor. The introduction of civil service resulted in the state supervised testing and certification of qualified candidates for entry level and promotional opportunities within the department. 1964 also saw the establishment of the department’s first Detective Bureau. Prior to the bureau’s establishment, patrol officers were responsible for all follow up and criminal
investigations to which they had been assigned. As the department grew and the calls for service increased, this arrangement turned out to be burdensome and inefficient. The new bureau enabled the timely follow up of cases and the rapid investigation of crimes possible. The first two Rockaway Township detectives were Detectives Jack Sembers and Ed Lyons.

The year 1965 saw the number of patrol districts increase from two districts to three. The population growth of the White Meadow Lake area resulted in the lake area becoming its own permanent patrol district. Prior to this, it was only considered a temporary patrol district during the summer months.

Besides the new patrol district, this year also resulted in the formation of an established Traffic Bureau within the department. The demands for traffic surveys, due to increased construction with the township, and other related traffic safety issues required a dedicated effort by the department to meet these demands. Sgt. Paul Johnson was the first traffic officer assigned to the new bureau.

The 1970s brought further growth as the department added a fourth patrol district and additional manpower. The Rockaway Townsquare Mall opened for business in 1977 and the resulting crowds increased the department’s calls for service exponentially. The mall became the shopping and social gathering spot for the Morris/Sussex/Warren counties area.

Chief Powers retired in September of 1975 and he was replaced in the position by Joseph Albensi. Chief Albensi oversaw the switch of the department’s service weapon from the .38 special Smith &Wesson Model 10 revolvers to the new 9mm S&W Model 59. Rockaway Township was one of the first departments in the state to change from the traditional revolver to the semi-automatic handgun.

Chief Albensi was also instrumental in one of the largest hirings of police officers in the township’s history when the department swore in seven officers at one time. This mass hiring, in August of 1977, was in anticipation of the additional workload created by the opening of the Rockaway Townsquare Mall.

In 1981, the police department moved into its new headquarters at 65 Mt. Hope Road. The new building provided the department with expanded facilities , including an indoor pistol range, locker rooms and shower facilities for both male and female department members, and prisoner processing and cell areas. The new building also included a dedicated court room to handle the increased case load of the township
judicial system.

The department was shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Chief Albensi in June of 1982. On July 27, 1982, Chief Steven J. Dachisen was sworn in as the third Chief of Police in Rockaway Township.

It was under Chief Dachisen’s stewardship that the township police department first reached an agreement with the management of the Rockaway Townsquare Mall. A contract was negotiated whereby the mall started to pay for officers and patrol vehicles to be dedicated to patrolling the mall on a permanent basis. The first two officers to be assigned to the new mall unit were P/O’s Walter Kimble and John Janosec, who started patrolling there in 1988. The mall unit today is now comprised of four fulltime officers operating out of a mini-precinct located within the mall.

In Febuary of 1990, Chief Dachisen oversaw the second mass hiring of police officers by the township when seven additional officers were sworn in at the same time to serve the citizens of the department. He was also the first chief to hire a female officer when P/O Marie McParland became a member of the department in August of 1994.

The change in local demographics during the 1980s and 1990s resulted in an increase in population with Rockaway Township as new housing developments were occupied and additional industries and businesses open in town. These brought about increased calls for service for all of the municipal departments, not just the police force. Unfortunately, the fire department started to suffer from a lack of volunteers to answer
calls, especially during the daytime. This was due to most families commuting to work away from the township and returning home in the evening.

In answer to this dilemma, the police department formed its Emergency Services Unit, comprised of trained and equipped emergency medical technicians, in 1991. These officers were dispatched to emergency calls to provide basic life support to injured or ill victims until the arrival of a fire department ambulance. P/O’s Jan Monrad and Walter Ardin were the two founding members of the unit. Today seven members of the department are EMTs and are assigned to the ESU unit.

On December 31, 1996, Chief Dachisen retired and was replaced by John Sisto, who was sworn in as chief the next day, January 1, 1997. Chief Sisto headed the department until his retirement on June 30, 1998.

Chief Joseph A. Devine took the helm of the department on July 1, 1998. Under his leadership, the department expanded its knowledge and capabilities by the assignment of officers to various task forces and inter-agency specialized units such as the Essex/Union Auto Theft Task Force and the FBI Fugitive Task Force. Officers were also assigned to extended tours of duty with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.

Chief Devine also increased the versatility of the department by creating specialized patrol units in 1999. Both police bicycle and police All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) units were form at this time. These units were specifically tasked with allowing patrol officers increased mobility in patrolling limited access areas of the township, such as the Split Rock reservoir and the parks, where patrol cars could not enter. These units, which have expanded to ten officers in each unit, are used for special events and special patrol details.

Chief Devine resigned as chief on March 8, 2002 to become the Chief of Detectives of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. To replace him, Walter Kimble was sworn in as the sixth police chief of Rockaway Township.

In May of 2004, an old patrol concept was introduced as a new unit to the Rockaway Township Police Department when the first police motorcycle was purchased and placed into service. The first motorcycle officers, P/O’s Michael Herda and Nicholas Lyasko, were used for parades, special events, and traffic details. The unit currently has five trained officers who operate two Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Chief Kimble retired on August 1, 2008. He was replaced by the department’s current chief, Walter J. Ardin, Jr.

Chief Ardin has introduced numerous technological changes to the department to help it meet the challenges of 21st century policing. He has overseen the redesign and updating of the department’s communications and computer systems. Some of the other department’s technological innovations are as follow:

- The introduction of the B.E.A.S.T. evidence system which has eased the logging and tracking of all departmental evidence, both traffic and criminal.

- The processing of arrests has been modernized with the introduction of
the AFIS computerized system that digitalizes mug shots and fingerprinting.

- The introduction of the Power DMS system. This enables the dissemination of internal police information to officers as well as creating a searchable data base for officer reference.

- All departmental reports are entered and processed via computers located both in all frontline patrol cars and at report stations in the squad and booking rooms.

- Computerization of the Police Records Room so that all reports are stored and retrievable via computer.

- All frontline patrol vehicles have been equipped with audio/digital video cameras to capture vital images of evidential value.

Presently, the department is in the process of seeking the status of becoming an accredited law enforcement agency. Through the use of the nationally recognized best police practices that are espoused by the N.J. State Chiefs of Police Association and the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, the Rockaway Township Police Department will continue to be in the forefront of modern policing,
providing the most efficient and effective police services to our community.