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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.