Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon is entrusted with keeping peace in the county in the 21st Century, just as the earliest of his 76 predecessors would have tried to keep the area clear of bootleggers and stagecoach robbers in the 1700s.
Nearly three centuries after the King of England appointed the first Sheriff of Morris County in 1739, the elected Sheriff Gannon runs a two-bureau law enforcement agency that has Triple Crown accreditation and serves residents of the entire county of 500,000 residents with its array of critical shared services and operation of the Morris County Correctional Facility.
Sheriff Gannon on September 3, 2019, re-energized the Bureau of Law Enforcement by restructuring and consolidating four divisions into three divisions, and promoting nine Officers, including new Chief Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Kelley Zienowicz.
Chief Zienowicz has daily oversight over 120 employees of the Bureau of Law Enforcement who are assigned to three divisions: Protective Services, Specialty Services, and Criminal Investigations.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement also is led by Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, a retired Mount Olive Police Chief, and Chief Warrant Officer Richard Rose, a retired Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Captain.
The eight other Officers promoted on September 3, and their new ranks are: Detective Captain Denise Thornton, Detective Captain Mark Chiarolanza, Detective Lieutenant Aaron Tomasini, Detective Lieutenant Walter Rawa, Detective Lieutenant Laura Flynn, Detective Lieutenant Michael Turkot, Detective Sergeant James Rae, and Detective Sergeant Thomas Reilly.
Since Sheriff Gannon took office in January 2017, he has concentrated on using agency talent and resources to build partnerships with other stakeholders and find solutions to grave societal concerns, including the heroin and opioid pandemic and the potential for active shooters at schools, houses of worship and public venues.
The initiatives overlap both the Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Law Enforcement and the Bureau of Corrections, which manages the Morris County Correctional Facility under the supervision of Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson and Warden Christopher Klein.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement, which maintains accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., primarily is responsible for protecting judges and the 600,000 annual visitors to the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown.
The Bureau of Corrections oversees the County Correctional Facility, which has earned accreditations from the American Correctional Association and National Commission on Correctional Health Care Accreditation.
Sheriff Gannon said of the Courthouse: “We ensure that everyone who comes here – victims of crimes, defendants, the elderly person who wants to file a complaint over a credit card fraud – is safe and free from intimidation.”
A hallmark program of the bureau’s Community Outreach and Planning Section is Hope One, a mobile substance use and mental health resource and recovery program. Within 100 days of taking office, Sheriff Gannon had formed a partnership with the non-profit agencies Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES) and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Counties to launch Hope One, a mobile substance use resource and recovery program on wheels.
With a plainclothes Sheriff’s Officer, a Peer Recovery Specialist and Mental Health clinician on board the retrofitted box truck, Hope One since its launch on April 3, 2017, has had contact with 8,258 individuals, trained 1,920 people in the administration of Narcan, linked 149 people with rehab and recovery programs, and assisted 107 others in accessing mental health services.
On April 3, 2019, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office was the first Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey to join the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) and serve as a drop-in locale for people struggling with addiction to seek help and be connected with a certified peer recovery specialist from Daytop-NJ.
Since then, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office has trained 10 other law enforcement agencies in the county to serve as PAARI sites.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement includes Specialty Services and Criminal Investigation divisions whose expertise is shared with all 39 municipalities in Morris County. The services include responses by 11 trained canines and their Detective handlers to narcotics, explosives, arson and other investigations, searches for missing people, and patrols of sensitive areas.
The Sheriff’s Office’s Bomb Unit, with Detectives certified by FBI explosives specialists, is another service shared with municipalities. The Crime Scene Investigation Unit is, by far, the specialized service most in demand, with CSI Detectives responding to virtually every crime – more than 1,100 annually – to collect fingerprints and evidence and take photographs and measurements.
The Sheriff’s Office has a highly-trained tactical team called the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) that responds to a range of calls from violent encounters and hostage situations to search and rescue missions.
A vital component of the Office is Legal Services, which is responsible for the service and enforcement of legal documents such as summonses and complaints, writs and subpoenas, to the sales of impounded and abandoned vehicles, evictions, levies and Sheriff’s sales.
Under Sheriff Gannon, the Bureau of Law Enforcement also has the Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT) that works cooperatively with other agencies to identify surges in particular crimes, patterns of criminal activity, and potential solutions. In the spring of 2019, the unit played a key role in assisting agencies in other counties in tracking patterns of thefts from at least 27 recreation league concession stands.
Recognizing a need, particularly among individuals who lack identification to obtain recovery or medical treatment, Sheriff Gannon instituted the Morris County Identification program available to people between the ages of 18 and 54.
A major, ongoing initiative through Sheriff Gannon’s partnership with the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association, mental health and school leaders is the Responsible School Violence Prevention, Preparation and Protection program (RSVP-3).
One component of RSVP-3 is the training of police to have a coordinated response to active shooters in schools. A second element is scientifically-sound training for police, teachers, school staff and mental health professionals so they can identify, assess and report behaviors that signal potential threats to school safety.
The Bureau of Corrections also has embraced strategies to help incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders use their time in custody constructively.
The avid reception to Hope One quickly led to the creation in June 2017 of the Hope Wing, a substance abuse housing unit at the Morris County Correctional Facility that is designed to help inmates address their addictions through group and individual interventions. Since its start, 120 individuals have passed through the Hope Wing program.
Another partnership between the Sheriff and the Morris County Human Services Department led to creation in 2018 of the Successful Transition and Re-Entry Program (STAR) for Morris County inmates.
As of August 2019, STAR had provided intensive re-entry case management to 87 individuals being released into the community, through linkages to housing, general assistance, Food Stamps, Medicaid and Vivitrol to help fight opioid addiction. STAR follows the progress of released inmates for up to one year.
“This is all about returning folks to being productive members of society, and of course, crime reduction,” Sheriff Gannon said.