History of the Hazlet Township Police Department
The earliest known Township records show the appointment of a police officer in 1928 to patrol the township during the summer months, as that time the Township was mainly a rural area with little populations. The officer appointed was Eugene W. Smith, a former mayor and the father of future Chief of Police William J Smith (1965-1981). He was paid fifty dollars per month for June, July, and August. Upon his resignation in 1931, James Rogers was appointed.
In 1932, the Township Committee appointed five more men to serve without pay. A secondhand motorcycle was purchased for use by the officers. From 1932 to 1938, two paid officers were hired every summer. In 1938, the number of officer was increased to 11. In 1939, the rate of pay for officers was $5.00 per day if they used the Township motorcycle and $6.00 per day if they used their own vehicles. The first two-way radio between Monmouth County Police Radio and Township officer was installed in 1939.
On May 3, 1940, the township appointed its first Chief of Police, J. Carlton Cherry, who was also the Mayor of the Township. In May 1942, the first police headquarters was established in the West Keansburg School, located at Highway 36 and Laurel Ave.
Stacy Carhart was appointed Chief of Police on January 1, 1946. During that same year the Township purchased its first police car, a secondhand Plymouth. Around this time, the department became a paid force, with each man receiving thirty-five cents per hours. The Township hall, police station, and the municipal court were all moved to the North Centerville Firehouse in the center of the Township in January 7, 1949. On May 15, 1952, all relocated again to the North Centerville Schoolhouse.
William J. Till became the third Police Chief on January 1, 1954. One sergeant and five patrolmen were also appointed. Wages hit an all-time high: the Chief was paid $1.25 per hour, the sergeant $1.05 per hour and the patrolman $1.00 per hour. Police headquarters moved again in October 1958 to 319 Middle Road (Public Works Department Building).
Gerard Gunther became the fourth Chief of Police on January 1, 1961, a stormy year. In 1961, everyone was demoted and new officers were hired. However, the following year all was well again and everyone was reinstated to their previous grade.
Around this time the Township experienced a rapid population growth with the opening of the nearby Garden State Parkway. Farms disappeared and housing developments took their place.
An ordinance establishing a full-time police department was adopted on April 23, 1965. Five men were appointed as the first full time officers. There was a captain, a sergeant, and three patrolmen. They worked 12 hours shifts and were assisted by seven part-time officers. They had one patrol car.
On May 2, 1967, William J. Smith became the fifth Chief of Police, and the first full-time chief of the department. In November of that same year the name of Raritan Township was changed to Hazlet Township.
As the Township grew, so grew the police department. In 1973, the force reached 29 members. They acquired 16 police cars, six of which were unmarked. Officer were assigned to the Detective Division, Juvenile Officers, Traffic Safety, Narcotics, and Patrol.
Plans were made in 1973 for the construction of a new police building. The building was completed and dedicated on August2, 1975, at a cost of one million dollars.
In 1981, Chief William J. Smith retired and the reins of the department were turned over to Chief Holmes J. Gormerley. During this time, the department started its popular DARE program for Township 5th graders and made various improvements bringing the department into the computer age. In addition, the department hired one of the first female police officers when Officer Maryann Smith was appointed to the department in 1990.
In 1997, Chief Gormerley retired and Chief Francis C. Emery became the Chief of Police. Chief Emery continued the department on its path to progress by enacting formal policies for many day to day police procedures. Under Chief Emery’s guidance the department grew to 48 officers, including three female officers.
In July 2004, Chief Emery retired and Chief James A. Broderick was appointed Chief. One of the first projects on Chief Broderick’s agenda was the accreditation of the police department through CALEA. Accreditation is when an agency institutes the best practices in policing. After 6 years and a lot of work, the department gained national CALEA accreditation. In 2010 the police department continued its pursuit of excellence by being accredited again by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. Among the many things that Chief Broderick accomplished in his tenure, was developing the departments first social media page which gave residents a first-hand look at how the agency operates.
In November 2016, Chief Broderick retired and Chief Philip Meehan became the Chief of Police. Among his accomplishments, Chief Meehan initiated the revision of the department’s employee evaluation system and standards for hiring. He directed technology upgrades for the agency, reaccreditation through the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police, shared service with Monmouth County and helped implement a comprehensive school security plan with the Hazlet Township Board of Education. He is also the Chief Liaison for Hazlet Hope, an organization that provides education and resources for opiate addiction and substance abuse. Chief Meehan also guided the department through the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as the civil unrest due to the murder of George Floyd.
In September of 2020 Chief Meehan retired which lead to the promotion of our current Chief, Chief Ted Wittke. Chief Wittke took over the reins while still battling the COVID-19 pandemic- ensuring all employees at police headquarters were supplied with the means to stay healthy. So far, in the time Chief Wittke has been Chief, the department has successfully achieved reaccreditation status through the New Jersey State Chiefs of Police Association, the Department has purchased load bearing vests to increase the health of its officers, renovations in headquarters have begun with the updating of the electrical system, remodeling of the locker rooms/bathrooms, increase in ADA compliance and replacement of the shooting range which will increase training while lowering training costs. The department has continued to partner with Hazlet’s Hope Network, launching ASSIST, which allows those fighting substance abuse disorder to come in and speak to a peer recovery coach, in order to get the help that they need. Chief Wittke has also taken the role of Chief Coordinator of the Monmouth County Rapid Deployment Force. Chief Wittke implemented a traffic safety unit to respond to traffic related complaints and conduct traffic studies on certain sections of our overburdened roadways. He continues to look for ways to leverage technology further the fight against crime in Hazlet.